Common man will soon be the lawmaker: Kejriwal
One of India’s most prominent anti-corruption campaigners launched a new political party yesterday, aiming to tap into a rich seam of public anger against the graft-tainted government. Arvind Kejriwal said the formation of his party would mark a new chapter in the struggle against a “bribe-taking culture” and pledged to field candidates at a general election due in 2014.
“Our political party is the first step in the right direction, the common man will soon become the lawmaker,” Kejriwal said, after the launch in New Delhi.
The unveiling of the yet-unnamed party was held on the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. “We derive lessons from Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. We are determined to clean up the entire political spectrum. Our candidates will be committed to honesty and transparency and they will fight elections,” he added. Kejriwal who attacked political parties for “looting the nation,” said the party will field candidates in the national election due in 2014. Anti-corruption activists, including Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai are central figures in the party, whose name will be announced on November 26. “The country is being sold and all political parties, the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP are guilty. We need to clean up the system…People are fed up of corruption,” Kejriwal told his supporters. He promised to present corruption evidence against two leaders on Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been rocked by a string of graft accusations, including revelations that officials pocketed millions of dollars when awarding tenders for telecoms and coal-mining ventures. Kejriwal, a former civil servant, co-founded a group called India Against Corruption, which caused huge embarrassment for the UPA govt. when another leader Anna Hazare went on hunger strike. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests organised by India Against Corruption. Although the movement has since largely fizzled out, disquiet about levels of corruption was fuelled over the summer by a scandal over the allocation of lucrative mining rights. An official auditor’s report found in August that private operators who won coal blocks without competition enjoyed “financial gains to the tune of Rs 1.86tn ($33.4bn)” since 2004 – some of which should have gone to the government.
The scandal was particularly embarrassing for Singh because he served as coal minister as well as prime minister from 2004-2009. Hazare has parted ways with Kejriwal over his plans to enter politics, which he has described as “full of dirt.” Kejriwal said his group would continue to “seek Hazare’s blessings” despite the rift. The new party’s manifesto details its aspirations for “a complete political revolution” as well as pledges to expose corruption at all levels of govt. and to inspire young people to participate in the political process. “We are not greedy for power or hungry for money. We want to bring a social, political and economic change to wipe out corruption,” said Kejriwal in a speech in New Delhi.
Arvind Kejriwal said he will disconnect the electricity supply of Sheila Dikshit as part of a protest against the recent hike in power tariff. “People should not pay electricity bills if the government disconnects anyone’s electricity, we will reconnect it. I am ready to go to jail. We will not just gherao (lay siege to) Sheila Dikshit residence, but will disconnect her electricity,” Kejriwal said. He threatened to hold a protest in New Delhi if the state govt. did not announce a rollback of the electricity tariff hike. “Sheila Dikshit has to reduce the electricity and water costs in Delhi. This is wrong. They should not have increased costs.” He alleged the private power distribution companies were making huge profits.