|Inder Kumar at work outside Girnar, the Indian Revenue Service officers’ housing complex in Ghaziabad where Arvind Kejriwal stays with his wife and two children. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Dec. 23: Arvind Kejriwal wasn’t the only one staking claim to broom-inspired sweepstakes today.
Inder Kumar and Sunil Kumar, sweepers at the Ghaziabad housing complex where the chief minister-designate lives, held up their brooms and grinned as they demanded a pay hike.
“Isi jharu ne unko kafi kuchh diya hai. Ab to saheb ko hamara salary badhana hoga (The broom has given him a lot; now saheb will have to raise our pay),” Inder, 45, said shortly after the Aam Aadmi Party chief met Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and staked claim to power with outside support from the Congress.
“We expect our monthly salaries of Rs 3,800 to be doubled as a reward since we’ve been cleaning this complex for 12 years. Saheb has already received his reward after promising to clean up the political system.”
“Aren’t our jobs similar?” smiled Sunil, 38.
The duo were speaking half in jest, and granting their wish would anyway be easy for Kejriwal even before he is sworn in on December 26 — at Ramlila Maidan, the birthplace of the anti-corruption movement that lifted him to power, if Jung accepts his request.
Yet, in a small way, the two sweepers’ demand portends the challenges lying ahead of a man who has won an election riding on populist promises and now faces the task of meeting high expectations.
Some of his supporters have already tweeted their disenchantment, caused by his very act of ascending to power with the backing of the once-reviled Congress. Thus has been born the term “AAPCon” — a play on the two parties’ names that also sounds like “who are you” in Hindi.
Sunita, Kejriwal’s wife, is confident her husband would be able to keep all his poll promises.
“It’s a new beginning in Indian politics, and he’ll ensure good governance in India. He’ll prove himself and perform,” said Sunita, who works for the Indian Revenue Service, from which her husband resigned in 2006 to take up social activism.
The former batch-mates have a daughter, Harshita, and a son, Pulkit, and live in Sunita’s fourth-floor official quarters with Kejriwal’s elderly parents. Sunita accepted that the family would now have “to shift to the capital” with Kejriwal — but it will not be to the chief minister’s official bungalow.
Kejriwal has announced that none of his ministers or MLAs would accept government accommodation — if they don’t have a home in Delhi, they’ll rent one out of their own pocket.
They will try to travel by Metro, bus or other means of public transport; will not use red beacons if they have to travel by car; and will not accept official security.
Kejriwal himself turned down the Z-class security offered by Delhi police today, writing to them: “God is my biggest security.”
Ironically, he requested police security and help in crowd management at meeting venues, suggesting that the practical aspects of power were sinking in.
At the housing complex for IRS officers in Ghaziabad’s Kaushambi locality, residents and employees were full of praise for “Kejriwal Sir”.
“He is a very soft-spoken person; we all respect him. We are extremely happy that he is going to be chief minister,” said chief of security Dilip Singh.
Kejriwal, a vegetarian, was born into a family of modest means in Siwani, a small town in Haryana, on August 16, 1968. He began his career with Tata Steel after graduating in mechanical engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 1989. He quit the job in 1992 and sometime later joined the IRS.
A family friend said Kejriwal often visited Calcutta during his IIT days. “He met Mother Teresa and was inspired by her work. He also got involved in the Ramakrishna Mission’s activities for a while.”
He said Kejriwal’s victory had been no less spectacular than the Hindi blockbuster Dhoom: 3. “He loves to watch Aamir Khan’s movies. His victory is Dhoom: 4 for everybody.”
A senior IRS official who lives in the complex said Kejriwal had introduced “a new style of politics” in India but “time alone will tell whether this politics is here to stay”.
The additional commissioner of police (security), V. Renganathan, had written to Kejriwal’s private secretary today offering security.
“Thank you for offering me security,” the chief minister-in-waiting’s handwritten reply said. “But as I have already informed earlier, I don’t need any security. I don’t need any escort or PSO. God is my biggest security.”
He added: “However, I would be grateful if some help is provided for crowd management or security at places.”
Z-category security usually involves 22 personnel from the police or the Indo-Tibetan Border Police or the Central Reserve Police Force and several escort cars. Sources said Z-class security costs around Rs 10 to 12 lakh a month.