TT Epaper
The Telegraph
CIMA Gallary

Arvind bell tolls for Cong and country

New Delhi, Dec. 24: Arvind Kejriwal has warned of ringing a bell that would “toll across the country” as he unveiled a two-pronged strategy aimed at spreading the wings of his fledgling party in the lead-up to the summer elections.

Aam Aadmi Party sources said their chief also spoke of going all out against the Congress, making it clear there would be no compromises just to stay on in power.

Kejriwal, who is set to be sworn in as Delhi’s chief minister with Congress support, stressed on performance at a meeting with party leaders yesterday. “Main yahan ghanta bajaoonga aur wahi ghanta pure desh me bajega (I will ring the bell here and it will toll across the country),” he was quoted as telling AAP legislators at the closed-door meeting.

AAP sources said his message was clear: the party needed to perform and deliver on its promises to take it beyond Delhi ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

It was, however, Kejriwal’s assertion that there would be no compromises with the Congress that appeared to be the highlight of Monday’s meeting. “The notion, spread by our detractors, that we have aligned with the Congress to form the government has to be demolished,” Kejriwal was said to have told the meeting after the video screening that outlined his approach.

The video, uploaded on Kejriwal’s Facebook page today, spoke of going after the corrupt. “AAP will not make any compromises and pursue its agenda of anti-corruption. AAP plans to pass the Delhi Lokayukta bill in the first 2 weeks of Jan and go after the corrupt,” Kejriwal said in the video, available in five languages.

AAP leader and lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the words “go after the corrupt” was an indirect reference to former Congress ministers accused of graft.

“If Congress withdraws its support and the government falls, then AAP will go back to the people. AAP will not make any compromises with the Congress just to stay in the government,” Kejriwal said, indicating he would be more than happy to play martyr and ride back with a clear mandate.

The AAP, which finished second after the BJP in the recent elections, won 28 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly. The Congress won eight.

While the Congress needs to be wary, the BJP appears to have been spared. AAP sources said the party believes that a large chunk of their backers were Narendra Modi supporters, so leaders would limit themselves to returning attacks from the BJP.

Internal surveys by the party have revealed that a sizeable number of AAP supporters who were “dead opposed” to forming the government with Congress backing wanted Modi to be the next Prime Minister.

“We don’t want to drive away this support base. We are confident that they will stick with us after we file corruption cases against the Congress ministers and perform on our promises,” said a senior AAP leader.

AAP strategists were initially against the party forming the government with outside support and wanted to use its stunning performance in the election to build structures across the country and contest the 2014 national elections. Kejriwal, too, had planned to campaign extensively.

But the party found itself left with little choice after the Congress offered unilateral support and the BJP, the single largest party, declined to form the government.

The AAP strategists then came round to the view that it would be prudent to accept the challenge of assuming the reins rather than be labelled escapist. “(But) if the Congress thought they have cornered us by offering support, then I can assure you they will repent their decision,” said an AAP leader.