Arvind Kejriwal vows to fight corruption as he takes CM's office

  • HT Correspondent & Agencies, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 14, 2015 19:42 IST

Arvind Kejriwal promised to make Delhi India's first corruption-free city and end what he called its "VIP culture" as he was sworn in as chief minister on Saturday in front of a huge crowd of cheering supporters at the Ramlila Maidan.

The veteran anti-corruption campaigner also pledged to stick out his five-year term and said he would not succumb to arrogance after his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won one of the biggest election victories Delhi has ever seen.

Kejriwal's first term as chief minister lasted just 49 days and ended in chaos a year ago, sparking accusations he was fleeing the tough job of administration.

Despite that, his party took all but three of the 70 assembly seats in election held last Saturday after pledges to tackle entrenched corruption and lower utility bills won over legions of working-class voters willing to give him a second chance. It was a remarkable turnaround for the 46-year-old former civil servant, who most pundits had written off after his AAP party won just four seats in last year's general elections.

Others who took oath as ministers on Saturday were Manish Sisodia, Asim Ahmed Khan, Sandeep Kumar, Satyendra Jain, Gopal Rai and Jitendra Tomar.

"I have been asked to work as the deputy CM of Delhi," Sisodia said at a press conference after the swearing-in ceremony. "Kejriwal will not be keeping any portfolios with him," Sisodia added.

Sisodia will be heading the finance and planning, education, urban development, revenue, land and building, vigilance and any other unallocated portfolios.

Rai will be in charge of transport, development, labour, general administration department and employment, Sisodia said.

"Satyendar Jain will head the power, health, industries, public works and IFC," the deputy CM said. Tomar will get law and justice, home, tourism and art and culture.

Khan will look after the food and civil supply, environment and forest, and election departments. Kumar will take care of the ministry of women and child social welfare, language and SC/ST.

Kejriwal will connect with the people, Sisodia said. "He will meet people to know what their problems are. He will also oversee the MLAs." "He will oversee all ministries through modern technology. He will try to bring systemic changes."

Live Blog Arvind Kejriwal's swearing-in ceremony

In his inaugural speech, Kejriwal admitted he had been over-ambitious in fielding so many candidates in the general election, and promised to focus just on running the capital.

"I have decided that for the next five years we will only focus on Delhi. I will serve Delhi with all my heart," he told the gathered crowd at the open-air ceremony.

"I will make Delhi corruption-free within five years. If somebody asks for a bribe, don't say no. Just take your mobile out of your pocket and record it on your phone. You then come and give it to me. We will take the toughest action against the offenders."

During his last brief tenure as chief minister, Kejriwal initially won rave headlines with his no-nonsense approach to endemic corruption, although his administration was soon embroiled in stand-offs with authorities.

'End VIP culture'

On Saturday, Kejriwal said his government would eschew the trappings of power, including the red beacons that allow senior politicians to glide through traffic in the gridlocked city.

"In developed countries, even PMs wait at bus stands. Why can't the same happen here?" he said.

"We want to end the VIP culture in this country."

He also said people of all faiths should live in harmony in the Indian capital, which has suffered a recent spate of attacks on churches.

Kejriwal, whose supporters range from domestic servants to teachers to business entrepreneurs, based his election campaign around pledges to deliver cheaper water and electricity as well as a promise to counter corruption.

He said the Congress party, which ruled Delhi for over a decade before suffering a humiliating defeat at the polls, had paid the price for being "arrogant".

"They lost in Delhi because of their arrogance. So we must not let our victory go to our heads," he said.

The new chief minister was dressed simply in a navy sweater and trademark white paper cap bearing the words "complete self-rule" -- a reference to his ambition to secure greater autonomy for Delhi.

The central government retains greater powers in Delhi than in most states, including controlling the capital's police force.

Tens of thousands turned out for the open-air ceremony at the Ramlila Maidan where Kejriwal also chose to have his first inauguration, in a break from the tradition of taking the oath in the state assembly.

Many carried Indian flags and wore the white paper hats printed with the words 'common man' in Hindi for which the AAP party is known.

Before last Saturday's election Kejriwal apologised for leaving voters without an elected government for a year, telling a newspaper that he and his party had "evolved".

Kejriwal's style remains unconventional, but he appears eager to project a more grown-up image this time around. He arrived at Saturday's swearing-in by car, after famously travelling by metro to his first inauguration.

Posters at the site showed him dressed soberly in a shirt and jacket and without the trademark woolly scarf that earned him the nickname "Muffler Man".

Kejriwal concluded his fiery speech after taking oath with the Hindi song "Insaan ka insaan se ho bhaichaara", seeking to drive home the message of universal brotherhood and harmony.

Kejriwal had sung the same song from the 1959 film "Paigham" during his previous swearing-in ceremony in 2013.

The Delhi CM assumed office shortly after taking oath. He along with his entire cabinet reached the Delhi secretariat building from the Ramlila Maidan. The Delhi chief minister met officials and ministers at his office, officials said.

A cabinet meeting scheduled for 4.30pm was, however, cancelled as Kejriwal was not keeping well. The meeting would now be held on Monday, television channels reported.

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