India Insight

Uncompromising Kejriwal won’t support any party if Delhi gets hung assembly

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The Aam Aadmi Party has up-ended the calculations of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the race for control of New Delhi in one of five state assembly elections later this year.

Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is an uncompromising anti-corruption crusader who has tapped into a vein of urban anger after a string of breathtaking graft scandals.

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Reuters spoke to Kejriwal at his New Delhi office about the state assembly election in December and his plans to root out corruption. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Are you confident of winning?

You see we were always fighting for winning. But (in) between we weren’t sure, frankly. Just like when Anna (Hazare’s anti-corruption) movement started, at that time before the movement, we had absolutely no clue that it will become so big … sense that I am getting now, is exactly the same sense, the same pulse of the people. The excitement in the people is much more than what it was during Anna’s movement.

People ask how can you remove corruption? You don’t have a magic wand.

Many things need to be done. Four immediate steps I can enumerate.

On corruption?

On corruption. First is, obviously Jan Lokpal Bill, which will create a very strong deterrence. That if you indulge in corruption, you will be punished. Swiftness and certainty of punishment will be ensured.

Modi, Kejriwal become latest video game characters as developers focus on elections

Politicians are becoming the Super Mario Brothers equivalent for Indian video gamers as 2014 election fever starts to settle over the country.

Software developers have been developing all kinds of new games and apps in recent years as Indians increasingly shift to smartphones of companies such as Samsung, Apple, Micromax and Karbonn. Now politics has crept into the mix.

In ‘Modi Run’, which debuted in July, players help the kurta-clad Narendra Modi — the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate — navigate various obstacles in a run through India’s states to become the country’s premier.

Kejriwal’s party gears up for Delhi polls with election reforms

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party), led by bureaucrat-turned-activist Arvind Kejriwal, is gearing up for state-level polls in Delhi this year with an array of candidates chosen for their honesty.

Kejriwal’s election plank is to cleanse India of corrupt politicians and bring more transparency to government. With graft scandals embarrassing the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party is taking a more grassroots approach to the problem: weed out the bad ones before they become candidates.

Anyone can hope to be a election candidate for the party if they are endorsed by 100 potential voters from the constituency they hope to represent. Political analysts say that’s not too difficult but makes the process more transparent.

Snapshots from Arvind Kejriwal’s hunger strike in Delhi

“Ankush, should we pay the electricity bill? The secretary of our apartments has advised us against it.” That was my mother’s question to me as I was leaving for Arvind Kejriwal’s fast venue in Delhi’s northeast corner, Dilshad Garden.

While I won’t be among those who refuse to pay electricity bills, Kejriwal’s supporters said hundreds of thousands of city residents had signed a pledge saying they would not pay their bills to the state.

Kejriwal said people should not pay because he says residents of Delhi are paying twice the amount they should be paying and began a hunger strike on March 23 against inflated bills.

Corruption trumps reforms and economics in Kejriwal’s politics

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The transformation of Arvind Kejriwal from taxman to anti-corruption activist and politician has been hard to ignore. He became something of a celebrity last year when he launched broadsides against rich, powerful people. That in turn gave him a platform to enter politics with his “Aam Aadmi Party” (party of the common man). Now Kejriwal, 44, must build a party in time to contest state-level elections in New Delhi this year.

After an hour-long election speech on a makeshift dais at a bus stand, the novice politician was visibly tired as he climbed into an off-white SUV for the journey home to Ghaziabad. I waited for him to stop coughing and take a sip of water before asking questions. We then had an animated, if one-note discussion about India’s economy and politics. The short story? Fix corruption and you fix everything else. Details about the economy, such as statistics and reports on inflation and economic growth? Just numbers for the media to repeat.

Kejriwal names his party, now it’s agenda time

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

Now that we know the name of India’s newest political party, launched by social activist Arvind Kejriwal, let’s look at what else it might deal with aside from the annihilation of corruption.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi party (AAP) – the name means “common man,” with “aam” meaning “ordinary” (and also “mango”) in Hindi – hasn’t said much so far about the bread-and-butter political topics of the day. While Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption has spoken on a few topics such as the hanging of Mumbai attacks convict Ajmal Kasab, how would he deal with a hostile nation with nuclear weapons? In fact, what is his foreign policy platform?

A user’s guide to India’s cabinet reshuffle

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.)

In what is most likely the last cabinet reshuffle for the UPA-II government  before the 2014 general elections, 22 ministers were sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday.

Here is the background, as explained by Frank Jack Daniel and Mayank Bhardwaj of Reuters:

The novice Indian politician’s guide to drubbings, snubbings and shruggings

It was only a matter of time before activist Arvind Kejriwal and his anti-corruption movement got back some of what they gave.

After Kejriwal’s flurry of allegations of wrongdoing by politicians and accusing the entire political class of working together as a “family” in looting the country, the family is striking back.

Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has accused Kejriwal of being a “self-serving ambitious megalomaniac”, and plenty of others have openly questioned his intentions. An RTI activist has accused one of Kejriwal’s aide of playing a dubious role in a Mumbai land deal, while another faces questions over farmland that she bought.

Arvind Kejriwal: when lightning doesn’t strike thrice

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and represent his points of view only.)

Arvind Kejriwal’s dud of an expose on Bharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari has caused some people to wonder why the social activist made his allegations in the first place. Is he trying to clean up politics? Or is he trying to clean up votes?

I like Kejriwal. He is a true activist. He gave up a comfortable government job to dive into the world of rallies and RTIs. He even won a Magsaysay award for it.

Kejriwal needs different approach to win hearts and votes

The Arvind Kejriwal-Robert Vadra faceoff has finally reached the place where it should be — in court instead of in the press.

An activist named Nutan Thakur filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Allahabad High Court on Oct. 9, and it has now been admitted. The government must respond within three weeks. Thakur wants the court to explore allegations by social activist Kejriwal that Vadra, son-in-law of Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, has been involved in shady land deals.

Perhaps court is the best venue for trying to find out if there is any less-than-aboveboard connection between Vadra, real estate firm DLF and the Haryana government, despite the lonely, but rewarding work of good investigative journalists.

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