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Everybody wants something

- WHO NEEDS a BROOM, ARVIND?
Maharashtra labour minister and NCP leader Hasan Mushrif being given a “milk bath” by his supporters to “purify” him after a party worker poured ink on him in Kolhapur on Friday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 29: Everybody — well, almost everybody — wants something from Arvind Kejriwal.

Those who waved wish lists a day after his swearing-in included insecure bus drivers, airline employees and a politician dumped by his party.

Over 1,000 contractual drivers and conductors of the Delhi Transport Corporation gathered outside the new chief minister’s home on Sunday to demand permanent jobs with the city’s main public transport operator.

Employees of the grounded Kingfisher Airlines, unpaid for the past 17 months, said they would seek Kejriwal’s help to secure their dues.

Politician Kamal Farooqui, sacked as Samajwadi Party secretary in September, met the chief minister to seek a place in the Aam Aadmi Party. “Everybody is interested in joining Kejriwal,” he said.

With demands and expectations rising sky high, Kejriwal today sought seven to 10 days to establish a system to deal with public grievances, but party sources claimed some decisions could be announced as early as tomorrow.

Kejriwal told the bus drivers he would accept “applications” only when he was in a position to do something about them.

“I don’t want to give you false assurances. I shall receive applications when we put a system in place to resolve the problems,” he said.

The 14,000-odd drivers and conductors hired on contract by the state-run corporation have been working for over 10 years. “Despite such long service, they have not made us permanent,” complained Ramesh, a driver.

Deshpal, another driver, said Kejriwal had promised during the poll campaign that he would end the thekari pratha (contractual service) in Delhi after becoming chief minister.

Suresh, a bus conductor, said only a portion of the transport staff had gathered outside Kejriwal’s home, so the Sunday services would not be affected.

A ruling party source told The Telegraph the chief minister was seeking time for the transition from the old order to the new to kick in.

“He’s asking for seven to 10 days to understand the system, go through files, consult bureaucrats and allow the bureaucrats he has picked to go through the files. On contractual labour, for example, he’ll need to consult the legal department.”

However, some party sources said this didn’t mean executive decisions would not be announced sooner.

“We did some homework even before the formation of the government. We can expect some decisions as early as tomorrow,” a party official said.

Kejriwal is widely expected to make announcements on water supply and electricity bills early this week. His party had promised to halve power bills and provide 700 litres of free water to each Delhi household that doesn’t use more than that amount.

“A household that uses 701 litres would need to pay for (the entire) 701 litres,” the source said.

Kejriwal meets people at his Ghaziabad home. (PTI)

A Delhi-based Kingfisher Airlines employee said the 2,000-odd hapless staff had in the past requested both the Congress and the BJP to intervene on their behalf but neither did.

“We’ll now approach Kejriwal,” he said, adding that representatives of the private airline’s 500 Delhi-based employees would soon seek an appointment with the chief minister.

“He is the one who works for the common man unlike the two national parties who get elected with the common man’s vote but forget him soon after the polls.”

Sources said Kejriwal had told Farooqui that the party would “discuss” his request to join. The politician, one of the Samajwadis’ best-known faces, was disciplined for his public remark that Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal had been arrested because he was a Muslim.

Farooqui later apologised and said he had been misunderstood but the party did not relent.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh said Farooqui’s credentials would be checked to make sure he didn’t have criminal or corruption charges against him.

As an avalanche of prayers threatened to bury Kejriwal today, one person prayed for him.

Father Govind Ram Kejriwal and neighbours at Kaushambi, the Ghaziabad locality where the family lives, organised a havan at a local temple so that the chief minister can keep all his poll promises.

Asked whether his son should take security cover, Kejriwal Sr, a retired government official, said: “God is his protector; He will look after him.”

Had his son changed after becoming chief minister? “No,” Govind Ram said.

“He loves us a lot and is a very good person. Whenever he goes outside, he seeks my blessings by touching my feet. Even as chief minister, he has been doing the same thing.”