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Kejriwal, Congress in name spat

Nov. 24: Even the name of Arvind Kejriwal’s new political party, which he announced today, set off a verbal battle with the Congress.

The party will be called the “Aam Aadmi Party” (Aap), the activist said in Delhi, immediately drawing charges of plagiarism from the Congress.

“The aam aadmi (common man) has been synonymous with the Congress,” Union minister Manish Tewari said in Chandigarh.

“Nobody can either hijack or skyjack or bicycle-jack the intrinsic relationship between the Congress and the people of this country.”

Kejriwal shot back that the Congress may have hijacked the word but could not hijack the common man.

The new party plans to fight its first election in Delhi, where Assembly polls are due in end-2013. Kejriwal will hold its highest post of national convener.

Kejriwal had earlier promised to announce the new party’s name on November 26, the day India adopted its Constitution. The party will now hold its first public meeting at Jantar Mantar on that day.

“The Aam Aadmi Party aims to restore power to the people, so as to realise the promise of swaraj (self-rule) enshrined in our (Indian) Constitution,” Kejriwal said.

“The aam aadmi will now contest elections; the aam aadmi will vote and the aam aadmi sit in Parliament.”

He said: “The panchayats have become corrupt and are therefore being kept out of our scheme of decision-making from below. We want the gram sabhas, and mohalla sabhas in cities, to be involved in lawmaking except for major issues such as foreign policy and external security.”

Kejriwal said the party envisaged referendums as a way of decision-making, which would be as effective as it has been in small countries such as Switzerland, as India could be subdivided into several small Switzerlands for the sake of referendums. He also backed the right to recall.

“We want to bring in a legal system where people will get justice without having to spend money,” he said.

The party today formed a national council of 320 members and a 23-member national executive. Both will be expanded later. Kejriwal said only one member from a family can get a berth in the state executives or national executive, and relatives will not be fielded in elections.

That the new party will be as centralised as any other is evident with its constitution stating: “The national executive alone shall have the power and authority to interpret this constitution and the regulations framed there-under. The decision of the national executive in respect of above shall be final and binding unless it is overturned by the national council in its next meeting.”

Tewari said the addition of one more political party to the existing 1,453 registered with the poll panel would strengthen India’s democratic fabric.

“If a person or group of people have decided to float a political party, it is their right,” he said. “The more the merrier.”