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Query for query, AAP crosses first hurdle

New Delhi, Jan. 2: Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal went back to his “common man” theme in an emotion-packed speech, daring politicians to decide which side they are on before his minority government crossed its first hurdle since assuming the reins last month.

“Delhi has dared to take the first step to finish corrupt politics, members of this House have to decide whether they are with the common man of Delhi or not,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader, the last to reply to the debate that preceded the confidence vote, said.

The AAP government won the trust vote in the 70-member Delhi Assembly as the rookie party’s 28 MLAs backed the confidence motion along with seven from the Congress, a Janata Dal (United) legislator and an Independent. Congress MLA Mateen Ahmed was the pro tem Speaker.

Kejriwal, who steered clear of questions raised by either the Congress or the BJP during the debate, started his speech with the question: “Who is (an) aam aadmi?”

Pointing at his party legislators, Kejriwal said: “She is Bandana (Kumari), she was a housewife; there is Akhileshpati Tripathi, he had come to Delhi to study for civil services; they are all aam aadmi. Why did they feel the need to fight an election?”

The common man, he said, needn’t be necessarily poor; he can be anyone who wants an honest administration.

Kejriwal, a civil servant-turned-politician, said he had never thought he would fight an election or form a government, but added that the common man rose because the administration had fallen victim to corrupt politicians. “Today, this House has to think why did the common man decide to stand and fight.”

Referring to the two-year-old Jan Lokpal movement, Kejriwal said politicians had dared the participants to fight an election. “We were challenged to enter politics, contest elections and make your own laws. They thought we will fail.”

Pointing to the Opposition benches, he said: “It is for the members to decide… on (which) side (they are in the) fight for honest and truthful politics. And, lastly, they have to make their stand clear on the issues we raised.”

As Kejriwal wrapped up his speech, the visitors’ gallery broke into applause.

Kejriwal’s speech did not answer any of the questions raised earlier by the BJP and the Congress. Harshvardhan, who was the BJP’s chief minister candidate, asked the AAP on its foreign funding. “AAP should explain the funding of over $3.73 lakh dollars from the Ford Foundation to an NGO with which minister Manish Sisodiya is associated. They should also explain the support they got from Awaaz.org,” he said, referring to a web portal that has been linked to pro-democracy movements in West Asia.

He also came down heavily on the AAP’s anti-VIP-culture stand. “Kejriwal says he won’t take security, but there are three tiers of plainclothes policemen guarding him. He claims that he will not take an official residence but we have information that a bungalow in Tilak Marg has been secured for him.” Kejriwal has been allotted two flats in Delhi.

The Congress’s Arvinder Singh Lovely said his party would continue supporting the AAP till they took decisions in the interest of the people. “And should the need arise, we will support you for the full five years,” he said.

But Lovely slammed the recent decisions taken by the AAP to give 20,000 litres of free water to every household and halving power tariffs for consumers who used up to 400 units a month.

He said the decisions breached the sanctity of the Assembly. “The earlier budget had approved certain subsidies and that cannot be changed now,” Lovely told the chief minister.