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Arvind party off the blocks

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Arvind Kejriwal today announced the launch of his political party, without naming it, and picked the Delhi Assembly election next year-end as its first target.

Anna Hazare was forgotten. The legend on the caps that many in the 1,000-strong crowd of supporters and curious onlookers wore said it all: “I am Anna” had been junked in favour of “I am Arvind” or “I am a common man.”

Kejriwal did not once mention Anna in his speech at the pandal in the heart of Delhi. Nor was there any photograph of Hazare at the venue.

As he has done all along, Kejriwal spewed venom at all political parties. “From today, the common man of the country is entering politics. Corrupt leaders, count your days... All the parties have cheated us. We will not now request, we will not plead. Now it will be a full-throttle political battle,” he said, from the stage where several small-time politicians joined him.

But if sources in his own still unnamed party are to be believed, the launch found him no less superstitious than the politicians he said should count their days.

While Kejriwal put down the delay in naming the party to incomplete paperwork, his colleagues said the real reason was the ongoing pitrapaksha — a 16-day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors and do not consider it propitious to start a new venture. Most mainstream parties come to a standstill during this period.

Kejriwal said he was also afraid other parties would get the name registered if he were to announce it now without completing the paperwork.

The name would be unveiled on November 26, the day the Constituent Assembly adopted India’s Constitution in 1949, he said.

A year back, in October 2011, Kejriwal while campaigning against the Congress candidate in the Hissar Lok Sabha bypoll had told the crowds that neither he nor any of the other Team Anna members had any political ambitions. Now, Kejriwal has parted ways with Hazare over the decision to launch a party.

His speech had no surprises. Kejriwal said half the Indian Parliament was populated by illiterate MPs and that politics was in the hands of “goondas”. He said all parties were corrupt and that the BJP and the Congress had a nexus.

Kejriwal promised an expose of corruption cases involving “two big leaders” next week and said his party would target Delhi’s Sheila Dikshit government over the recent increase in water and power tariffs. Next month, he would lead supporters to gherao Dikshit’s residence and disconnect her electricity connection unless there is a rollback, he said.

The party’s vision document was released from a dais whose backdrop had Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s photographs. B.R. Ambedkar, Jayaprakash Narayan, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose and Aung San Suu Kyi stared down from other banners.

But not all supporters were happy. Manoj Vishwakarma, who claimed to be a committed worker with the movement for the past 18 months, complained that politicians who have failed in mainstream political parties have made a beeline for this new party.

“This has become a sham. Workers like us who nursed this movement in smaller cities and towns have been ignored. On the stage you find former MLAs whose name nobody has heard. This is a party no different from others,” he said.