New Delhi, Dec. 27: Call it a political “common” entrance test.
Arvind Kejriwal will tomorrow open his innings as Delhi’s chief minister with his latest “aam aadmi” gesture —taking the Metro and then covering the last kilometre to his swearing-in venue on foot.
The “commoner” act could be a one-day affair, though.
Asked whether Kejriwal would travel by Metro to office every day, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) media coordinator Vikas merely said: “Let’s see…. He is making a gesture tomorrow; that is important.”
Kejriwal’s announcement of the decision came after he had taken a car ride from his party headquarters to his home, barely 1km away.
“All my MLAs and I shall travel by Metro. It is an aam aadmi government and we will go like commoners,” he said outside his home at Kaushambi in Ghaziabad, an Uttar Pradesh town bordering Delhi.
For now, the AAP chief will continue to live in the Kaushambi flat — the official quarters of his wife, an Indian Revenue Service officer — but would likely move into an apartment in Delhi sometime later, party leaders said.
It remains unclear, however, whether he would rent the Delhi flat with his own money or move into a government accommodation. Party sources said Kejriwal wants a flat with a garden nearby where he can hold his janata darbars — informal gatherings where he interacts with ordinary people.
The AAP has promised to end the “VIP culture” in Delhi and said its ministers and MLAs would neither live in official bungalows nor accept official security.
“Even if Arvind takes a government flat, he will not be violating the party promise. After all, a government apartment in a block of flats is not a bungalow,” an AAP leader said.
Sources said that Kejriwal, along with his cabinet-in-waiting and party MLAs, would take the Metro tomorrow to New Delhi station, the one closest to the Ramlila Maidan where he and six ministers will take the oath of office.
But the AAP boss has already begun playing chief minister, that too in what is technically Akhilesh Yadav’s Uttar Pradesh rather than Delhi. Since last Wednesday, he has held several janata darbars.
At this morning’s janata darbar on the road outside his party office, Kejriwal was dressed like the aam aadmi — a woollen muffler wrapped around his head — but displayed the authority of a chief minister.
Sitting atop a table with his legs in the air, Kejriwal listened to the crowd of commoners seated on the ground in front of him and promised to address most of their complaints.
“Sir, MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) officials are demanding a bribe for a birth certificate,” complained Manish Pandey from Karol Bagh.
“Aap unse setting kar lo. Bolo hum ghoos dene ke liye taiyyar hain. Humko bata do aur hum pakad lenge (Strike a deal with the official; tell him you are ready to pay a bribe. Then inform us and we’ll catch him),” the chief minister-designate said as the crowd clapped.
Kejriwal conceded he would be better placed to redress people’s grievances once he had formed his government, but justified the mass meetings on the ground that he was getting to know in advance where exactly the problems lay.
“Wait two or three days. Once the government is formed, I shall have officers with me here. Then I can refer your complaints to them and they would be addressed,” he said, urging the restless crowd to keep coming to his janata darbars.
Most of the participants complained of corruption in government departments. Kejriwal promised to put an end to official graft with popular support.
He, however, shouldered arms when a complainant, Brajesh Kumar, alleged that an assistant income-tax commissioner from Delhi was using his “ill-gotten money” to buy huge tracts of land in Kumar’s village of Gind in Haryana at throwaway prices.
“What can I do in this case?” Kejriwal, a former Indian Revenue Service officer, said. “The income-tax department is under the central government and your land is in Haryana. Neither Haryana nor the central government are under me.”
But the complainant’s next few words seemed to please him. “You will become the Prime Minister and also rule Haryana,” Kumar declared, prompting applause from the crowd.
Jameel Ahmed, a man in his mid-20s, however, had no inclination for idle talk. When his turn came to speak, he stood up and repeated Netaji Subhas Bose’s call: “Give me blood and I shall give you freedom.”
“Sir, the youth of this country are willing to give their own blood. Give them liberty. Save this country from traitors,” an emotional Jameel said.
Next, he whipped out a razor blade from his pocket and made a slash above his own wrist.
Panicky AAP volunteers rushed towards Jameel. Kejriwal kept his calm and urged everyone to let the young man speak. Moments later, as blood spurted out of Jameel’s hand, Kejriwal told his volunteers to take him to hospital.
Some in the crowd had come not with problems but to offer solutions. Bishambhar from Laxminagar introduced himself as a government servant and said he knew a way to halve electricity bills — a key AAP poll promise.
“High power bills began arriving after the old meters were replaced with electronic ones. Just change the meters and the bills would come down by 50 per cent,” the middle-aged man said.
The chief minister-in-waiting, who believes an audit of the power distribution companies would do the trick, heard him out in silence. After some time, he said that those who had suggestions could give them in writing.
Kejriwal stood up, said there would be no janata darbar tomorrow, urged everyone to be at the Ramlila Maidan, and drove off.
He later tweeted: “Many people asking me for passes for tomo’s oath ceremony. No passes needed. All are welcome. Its ur prog. My family will also sit in public.”