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Kejriwal 2.0 takes over

Arvind Kejriwal Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who took oath as chief minister of Delhi along with his Cabinet colleagues at the Ramlila Maidan, has changed. Buoyed by a stunning victory, he is no longer weighed down by the need to prove himself, and this was clear from a new confidence as he took oath as CM in the name of God.

Kejriwal surprised everyone by not keeping any portfolios and decided to delegate his work to the Cabinet colleagues with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia getting a lion’s share of portfolios, including key ones like Finance, Revenue and Planning.

“Some people (are) surprised and asking me why I didn’t keep any portfolio? I don’t think the CM should micromanage any one ministry. I will devote myself in finding systemic solutions to Delhi’s problems and implementing them,” Kejriwal said in a series of tweets.

The last time around, he had caused chaos by taking the metro rail to reach the ceremony venue, had delivered a blunt speech calling other political parties as “corrupt” even challenging fresh elections and had got cracking at the Delhi Secretariat by transferring a slew of bureaucrats.

Today, a year to the day, Kejriwal marked the beginning of his second innings as the chief minister by showing a willingness to take advice from rival parties, extended his support to the Central government, warned his own team-mates to not get arrogant and asked police authorities to take stern action against people trying to harass businessmen posing as AAP workers.

That Kejriwal had traversed quite a distance in the last 14 months was evident today. His message was loud and clear: his agenda for Delhi was over five years, not 49 days. On a Valentine’s Day, exactly a year after he resigned amid harsh words, he told the gathered crowd he will spread the “politics of love” this time around.

“We had willingness, passion and romanticism when we formed the government the last time. Now after our 49 days of governance, we have confidence. We will root out corruption from Delhi in the next five years,” Kejriwal said in his 30-minutes speech.

The new dispensation in Delhi will no longer witness the chaotic junta darbar, not bypass the Constitutional route and the party will focus only on Delhi, without any national ambitions. Kejriwal set the record straight that he would need cars and big flats to run his government and said he wouldn’t want the media to judge his governance in hours.

Instead of his usual crackdown on big corporate houses, he thanked the traders for their “full support” and assured them that his administration will not harass them.

He sought the help of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in granting full statehood to Delhi by empathizing with  his role at the national level.

“When I met Modi, I told him that as a PM he has a lot of work. He has to think about the whole country. He even has to travel abroad. When there is a mishap in the capital and  rising crime, the PM might not be able to devote his time to attend to the problems of  Delhi citizens. I requested him leave the responsibility of Delhi on his citizens and told him ‘you run the entire country’,” Kejriwal said amid thundering applause.

He mentioned how the BJP government had “kept fighting” for full statehood for 15 years and reminded supporters that the party had promised this before the Lok Sabha elections.

He subtly took a swipe at the NDA government on growing communal tensions in the national capital and told“such forces” that such incidents won’t be tolerated.

“In the last few days we have been witnessing a few incidents happening in Delhi – people have tried to instigate riots in protests. One church was burnt and others are being attacked. Delhi people are peaceful. We haven’t seen such incidents in the past 35 years. The people of Delhi cannot tolerate this…I urge all these forces to avoid such politics,” said Kejriwal.

Controversial legislators such as Somnath Bharti and Rakhi Birla have been kept out of his Cabinet team. In his 49 day stint as the chief minister, Kejriwal had cracked down on the Delhi police quite often, even defending his then law minister’s midnight raid in South Delhi despite opposition from police authorities. Kejriwal said although the Delhi police continue to be administered by the central government, his government will co-operate with them so that “people of all the religions feel secure in Delhi.”

He warned the ministers to “not get arrogant” by the huge mandate. The party is even believed to have formulated a volunteer feedback mechanism to keep a check on all the 67 MLAs in Delhi. This will be implemented soon, a party leader said.

The party leaders candidly admit the government will not have an exit route this time and will be more rational in its media management and also, its decentralization plan.

“The junta durbar will be more channelized this time. We are working the frameworks in a manner that an MLA can meet people once every week to hear their problems,” said a senior party leader.

Even while he pointed Congress and the BJP lost because of their arrogance, he highlighted how his own party workers had inherited this in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

“In the last few days, I have been hearing our leaders on television channels saying we will fight the elections from here, we will fight elections from there, we will contest elections in five or 10 states…. I see a bit of arrogance in this statement. I don’t think this is right,” said Kejriwal.

“We had won 28 seats in the last Assembly,” Kejriwal continued, “We become a bit arrogant when we decided to fight the Lok Sabha elections and God punished us. We all know what happened in the Lok Sabha elections. We need to learn from our mistakes. We will serve Delhi for the next five years. I will fulfill my responsibility with tan, man and dhan.”

Kejriwal was referring to AAP’s decision to fight the Lok Sabha elections from almost all the states after it had quit from the Delhi Secretariat exactly a year back. Back then, Kejriwal and his close aide Manish Sisodia weren’t keen on contesting nationally. However, Yadav and a few others pushed the party leadership to extend its base to our states, too.

The party got routed out in Delhi and to its surprise, won four seats – all from Punjab.

Even other party leaders agreed with Kejriwal’s line of thinking. “We want to go to other states but that will happen gradually. We want to first focus on building our organisation in other states and this is the lesson we have learned that until there is structure, you cannot win. We want to deliver at one place first,” said party spokesperson Atishi Marlena, after listening to Kejriwal’s speech, who saw the event as a “historic” and an “overwhelming” moment for the party.

Kejriwal’s speech was centered on giving good governance by vowing to make Delhi corruption-free in five years and assured the traders that they won’t suffer from harassment under his administration.

“The traders had given us full support. I assure you no department will harass you. You run your business fearlessly but also file full tax returns. In the earlier administration, there would be theft from the tax collections but I won’t let that happen now. We will utilise your tax on education, roads, parking, women safety, water and electricity,” said Kejriwal, who has offered the lowest Value Added Tax (VAT) for traders under his rule.

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