Arvind Kejriwal took oath as Delhi’s common man chief minister in front of a sellout Ramlila Maidan crowd Saturday, promising statehood, an end to corruption and VIP culture, and the security of people of all faiths in the next five years that he would devote solely to the city.
A day to the year he ended his first stint as CM after a chaotic 49-day reign, the Aam Aadmi Party chief presented a slightly older, much wiser persona as he profusely thanked Delhiites for giving him a second chance and assured them that this time, he was here to stay. “I have decided that for the next five years, we (AAP) will focus only on Delhi. I will serve Delhi with all my heart,” he said.
“I knew the people of Delhi loved me but I did not know they loved me this much,” he said, referring to the party’s record sweep of 67 of the assembly’s 70 seats that he called a “miracle of God”.
Lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung administered the oath of office and secrecy to the 46-year-old Kejriwal and his six ministers — who, with an average age of 42, make up one of the youngest cabinets in the country. In a section of the crowd, his family watched with pride while the one lakh-strong audience — a sea of white caps waving tricolours — rent the air with cheers.
Showing his seriousness about statehood for Delhi, the CM said, “In every poll manifesto, the BJP has promised statehood to Delhi and now that there is (a) BJP (government) at the Centre and a majority AAP government in Delhi, I am hopeful Prime Minister Narendra Modi will think about giving Delhi full statehood. This is a golden opportunity to give Delhi its due.”
He even had a word of advice for the PM: “Focus on the country and leave Delhi to the AAP government.”
Soon after his historic victory in the assembly elections, Kejriwal had made his demand for statehood clear during meetings with the PM and Union minister Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu.
In another apparent jab at the NDA government, the CM reacted to the string of attacks on churches and Christian buildings, saying, “The people of Delhi love peace. They will not tolerate such communal politics.”
Kejriwal, who started his Delhi chapter in 2011 with the Anna Hazare-led crusade against corruption, promised to clean up the city in five years. With an anti-corruption helpline as a first step, he urged the people, “If somebody asks for a bribe, don’t say no. Setting ker lena (fix the deal) and record it. Send the video footage to me. I will take action.”
Pointing out that his government would shun all the trappings of power, he said, “In developed countries, even PMs wait at bus stands. Why can’t the same happen here? We want to end the VIP culture in this country.”
He repeated his advice to AAP ministers, legislators and volunteers to stay humble and not succumb to arrogance. He also praised his rivals for the chief minister’s chair, saying he hoped to consult with “elder sister” Kiran Bedi and a “vastly experienced” Ajay Maken on developing Delhi.
Branded Mufflerman by his fans, Kejriwal gave the popular accessory a miss on a sunny Saturday despite being down with the flu. And despite his sore throat, he ended his speech with some lines from the patriotic Manna De song ‘Insaan ka insaan se ho bhaichaara’.