The Telegraph
Friday , January 24 , 2014
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Guess who’s on R-mike

New Delhi, Jan. 23: Till two days ago, he was disparaging the ceremonies associated with Republic Day and threatening to derail the parade with his agitation.

Now Arvind Kejriwal is ready to make a concession to one of the formalities surrounding the event: he is preparing to deliver his first Republic Day address as chief minister of Delhi on Saturday.

Delhi’s Republic Day function is held a day in advance to prevent a clash with the celebrations on Rajpath.

On Monday, the first day of his dharna against the Union home ministry, Kejriwal had said the Republic Day was not about the parade or the tableaux — it was about the “people”. He had called on the “people” to come in hordes to fill up Rajpath.

“I had earlier asked all of you not to come because of the January 26 preparations, but I couldn’t sleep last night and kept thinking, ‘What kind of a Republic Day is it when the people’s voices are not heard?’” Kejriwal had said on Monday.

“Republic Day can’t be celebrated by taking out tableaux or leading a march. Republic Day will begin from today,” he had added.

For all that, Kejriwal will on Saturday be following the tradition of chief ministers hoisting the national flag, taking a guard of honour and giving a speech. Sources said he would be speaking extempore.

The state’s Republic Day celebrations, hosted at north Delhi’s Chhattrasal Stadium, are usually attended by a captive audience of schoolchildren and bureaucrats. During the past 15 years of Congress rule, only a couple of lawmakers and ministers used to make it to the event.

Sheila Dikshit’s last address as chief minister had come weeks after the December 16 gang rape, and she had spoken in detail about women’s security. She was in an election mode and described the achievements of her government too.

“We are lucky to have been able to hoist the national flag on Republic Day for the 15th time in a row. And in the last 14 years, we have tried our level best to fulfil every need of the citizens of Delhi, from roads to health facilities and education to houses. We have tried to reach out to everybody,” Dikshit had said.

Ahead of Kejriwal’s Republic Day address, the Delhi cabinet will be clearing the Jan Lokpal Bill. Kejriwal was back in the saddle today after skipping work on Wednesday.

He avoided the cameras and remained closeted in a room for over three-and-a-half hours, discussing the draft of the bill.

While senior officials and ministers were discussing the most important piece of legislation for the Aam Aadmi Party government, law minister Somnath Bharti stayed away from the secretariat.

Sources said Bharti had already vetted the draft and his opinion had been recorded in the file. The draft has been modelled on the Uttarakhand government’s lokpal bill.