A loud cheer goes up inside a packed Talkatora indoor stadium when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s recorded voice plays out, asking people to sting the corrupt.
The cheer is even louder when he identifies himself as one Vikram and tests the helpline 1031 with a mock call against a local food inspector. When the responder asks if there is a recording, Kejriwal says “yes”, and asks if he will be in trouble. The responder assures: “No.”
After cheaper power and free water with riders, the revival of the helpline, launched during AAP’s 49 days’ tenure, is the third major promise that the party has kept after it won a historic mandate in the February 7 assembly elections. And the response has been good: 5,500 calls in the first three hours.
It was AAP’s first public show of strength after dissidence led by founding members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan broke out in the party late in February, leading to talks of a possible split. In his first major public address since he was sworn-in 50 days ago, Kejriwal took a veiled dig at ‘conspirators’ but refused to be drawn too deep into party squabbles.
During the launch, Kejriwal, who has been accused by a section of the party of being dictatorial, was flanked by his deputy Manish Sisodia and five other cabinet colleagues on the dais, and most of his MLAs and a large number of party supporters both inside and outside the stadium. Bouncers ensured right people sat at right places.
Kejriwal mentioned how people tweet and blog against him for cheap and instant fame, but focussed his speech mainly on how the helpline, supported by large-scale technological innovations, will rank Delhi among the top five corruption-free cities in the world. He said no corrupt person would be spared be it a Kejriwal or a Sisodia.
“Ever since our party came to power, a conspiracy is on against me. Blackmailers and corrupt people have come together to tarnish my image,” he said. Both leaders mentioned the launch came exactly four years after Anna Hazare launched his anti-corruption movement from Jantar Mantar.
The helpline, which could cater to only 25% calls due to a shortage of lines, has undergone a makeover and can now attend 10,000 calls per day against 1,000 last time.
Executives had been trained to take calls and direct callers on how to conduct sting operations. Kejriwal asked all government officials to publicise the helpline number and allow mobile phones inside their officers.
Sisodia said there could be 19 colleges instead of the promised 20, but corruption was non-negotiable. Kejriwal and Sisodia clapped, and the crowd cheered when a government officer SS Yadav talked about AAP’s anti-graft credentials in his welcome speech. Administrative reforms secretary Arun Baroka said the helpline would be a game-changer.