Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal⁠— the man with a knack for Carpe Diem

  • Arvind Kejriwal was called the giant killer as it dethroned the late Sheila Dikshit of Congress — the chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms then.
  • Six years later, the muffler-wearing Arvind Kejriwal is ready to face the people’s verdict on his administration so far.
  • AAP may win a comfortable majority of 59 seats of the total 70 in the Delhi assembly elections.
  • A win in the upcoming Delhi elections of 2019 will raise his stature in India’s national politics.
When Arvind Kejriwal resigned from the office of the Chief Minister after the 49-day stint in 2013, the first thing he did was to walk up to his party office ⁠— in full media glare and commotion from his supporters ⁠— opened a creaky, old window on the first storey and blamed both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress for colluding with none other than India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, the billionaire Chairman of Reliance Industries.

The imagery that Kejriwal relied on was starkly reminiscent of an iconic scene from a movie, Hey Ram, based on the life and times of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.


In one stroke, Kejriwal had put Mukesh Ambani, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and the Congress leadership under Sonia Gandhi in one bucket and portrayed himself as ‘holier’ than all of them. It possibly struck a chord with the angry voters who were disillusioned by a system that had failed them inordinately.
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His continued onslaught on Ambani was followed by defamation suits against media houses that gave Kejriwal airtime. However, Kejriwal’s persistence, which was later called persecution complex from some quarters, did give him a thumping victory in the Delhi assembly election that followed in 2015, when AAP won a whopping 67 of the 70 seats.

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The man with a plan

The man with a plan

In 2013, the barely year old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal was called the giant killer as he dethroned the late Sheila Dikshit of Congress — the chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms then.

Six years later, the muffler-wearing Arvind Kejriwal is ready to face the people’s verdict on his administration so far.

The last six years have been eventful for the nascent politician, who at first denied any political ambitions ⁠— from questionable appointments to resignations to CBI raids to street protests et al, it has been controversies galore. Yet, as it seems at this stage, AAP may win a comfortable majority of 59 seats of the total 70 in the Delhi assembly elections.

Two years as a corruption crusader, five years as Chief Minister

Two years as a corruption crusader, five years as Chief Minister

Kejriwal emerged from the shadows of social activist Anna Hazare in the anti-corruption protests in the early part of the last decade. They were demanding an independent Jan Lokpal, an ombudsman that would investigate corruption cases and conduct trials.

Kejriwal, the second IIT graduate to become a state’s Chief Minister after Manohar Parrikar, had earned his credentials as an anti-corruption crusader while still with Team Anna. He formed an non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Parivartan dedicated to assist and educate citizens about their rights with regards to income tax, food and electricity.

In fact, his NGO challenged the IT department when he was working there - and proposed suggestions like issuing a Citizen’s Charter that lays out the timeline of each job, which were later implemented.

The then 71-year old Hazare was on an indefinite fast, rumours were rife that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the current dispensation under BJP, was funding and fuelling support for the movement. But Kejriwal emerged out of the shadows with tangible benefits.

The movement was just a stepping stone for Kejriwal whose political ambitions were well hidden until he parted his ways with Hazare to form his own party on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday in 2012.

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Well begun is half done

Well begun is half done

The might of AAP was first put to the test when they announced that they will field candidates in all the 70-assembly seats in Delhi in 2013.

But the opportunity was readily available for anyone looking. The ruling establishment in Delhi was tainted by a series of scandals and the anti-incumbency of three straight terms skewed the odds heavily in favour of anyone standing against it. Back then, Kejriwal was already a household name — thanks to the 4-month long extensive media coverage of the anti-corruption movement led by Hazare.

The Delhi Assembly Elections 2013 registered highest voter turnout in years and AAP won 28 out of 70 seats shocking the nation — not least its rivals — BJP and Congress. Yet, he was short of eight seats to form the government and so, he joined hands with the ruling party he campaigned against, the Congress, and used their support to become the union territory’s chief minister.

But that government had to vacate the seat in 49 days. The arrangement between AAP and Congress was always tenuous and Kejriwal knew it better than anyone else. He had other plans.

Method to madness

Method to madness

In his first term as Chief Minister, Kejriwal was seemingly becoming a laughing stock for not being able to shed his image of a crusader and rising up to the challenges of being an administrator. His dharnas on the streets of Delhi, while the government was his own, earned him flak and mockery from peers and voters alike.

But it was all building up to a moment that Kejriwal would seize. The India in 2013 was angry with the system, economic activity was depressed, inflation was rising and so was income inequality. Added to that, a series of Supreme Court verdicts including the 2G spectrum allocation case and the coal mine allocation case allowed the people to believe that all industrialists as corrupt and hand-in-glove with the political class.

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Kejriwal was less prepared for the responsibility than he was to grab power

Kejriwal was less prepared for the responsibility than he was to grab power

Picture Credit: BCCL

Controversies have been a significant part of Kejriwal’s political career. His image as a common man tarnished when a sting operation exposed his own party members accepting bribery just a few days before 2013 Delhi Assembly election.

Another controversy that followed Kejriwal in 2017 was about AAP MLA Satyendra Jain who possessed disproportionate assets during the period 14 February 2015 to 31 May 2017 and escaped legal action.

In yet another controversy, former Chief Minister, the late Dikshit, also questioned the source of a sum of ₹19 crore that AAP received as donation.

Hazare too who distanced himself after Kejriwal parted ways also said that AAP blamed that his party is used his name to come to power.

Arvind Kejriwal also accused CBI for raiding his office in 2015, taking the clash between center and the state government to a new level. In a series of tweets, he alleged that PM Modi asked CBI to raid his office to search for evidence against him. However, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament that the raids had nothing to do with Kejriwal.

He also invited a ₹10 crore defamation case from Arun Jaitley who alleged that his former lawyer Ram Jethmalani allegedly used an objectionable word in an open court. The defamation case cost Kejriwal four written public apologies.

Kejriwal also landed controversy for wanting a separate statehood for Delhi. It accused the Lt. Gen for dismissing all the decisions taken by the Delhi government. The clash between Lieutenant and AAP began soon after Kejriwal took oath as CM in 2015, and even triggered Sofa protest. The matter was resolved in Supreme Court in 2018 where it asserted that “Lt. Governor is not governor and hence it is bound by the advice of cabinet advice in matters other than those exempted.”

Every time a controversy erupts, Kejriwal would seem political inept at handling the crisis to begin with. But, time and again, he emerged either unscathed or with very minimal damage

The ₹20 million man

The ₹20 million man

Picture Credit: BCCL

According to the affidavit he filed in 2013, Kejriwal had around ₹2 crore in movable and immovable assets. He had two flats under his name worth ₹5.5 lakh and ₹3.5 lakh each. His wife owned a house ₹1 crore and had bank deposit worth ₹16,85,000 among other assets.

All eyes will be on the next affidavit that he files for the upcoming Delhi elections. After all, politicians in India are infamous for amassing huge wealth while in power. Will Kejriwal be any different?

A win in the upcoming Delhi elections of 2019 will raise his stature in India’s national politics where there is a vacancy for a credible opposition to the juggernaut that is the BJP and its iconic Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even if Kejriwal becomes a two-time Chief Minister of Delhi, it will only be a step in the right direction for both the leader and the party that is still coming of age.

See also:

Delhi Assembly Election 2020: All you need to know about the upcoming Delhi Assembly Election

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