India, APP, Political Party, Election, Bismillah Geelani

The Common Man’s Party or AAP made a spectacular debut in recent polls in Delhi.

The party won 40 percent of the seats on a pledge to fight corruption and clean up politics.

The party chief Arvind Kejrival took the oath as Delhi’s Chief Minister in front of a large crowd at Ram Lila Ground.

The ground was also the venue for a massive Indian anti-corruption movement.

“Today is an historic day. It is not Arvind Kejrival and the six ministers who just took the oath; it’s you, the people of Delhi who have been sworn-in today. The battle we fought was not to bring someone to power; it was to bring power into the hands of the ordinary people.”

A former civil servant, 45-year-old Kejrival started the party a year ago.

But his Common Man Party has stunned everyone by sweeping the Congress Party out of power after a 15-year rule in Delhi.

“We are the ones who made 87 flyovers, we are the ones who brought in metro, and we are the ones who made Delhi into a greener and a cleaner city with ambient air quality,” says Sheila Dikshit, Delhi’s former Chief Minister.

“We have to look into why we have lost despite the fact that so much has been done for Delhi.”

Analysts like Purshotam Agarwal see this as the beginning of a new era of politics in India.

“They have challenged the current political culture where every deception was legitimised in the name of democracy. They have come through participative democracy and their success is a clear indication that people see an alternative to political parties like the Congress Party and the BJP. People also see an alternative to the entire political culture we have witnessed so far.”

The Common Man’s Party, or AAP, was born out of the hugely popular anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare.

Hazare himself announced the idea of forming a political party after ending his 2-week hunger strike to demand a strong anti-corruption law in 2012.

But he distanced himself from politics after his close aide Kejrival formally launched the party.

“We did everything in the last two years to get an effective anti-corruption law. We went on hunger strike, held demonstrations and sit-ins and did many other things, but gradually it became clear that we can’t change anything in the country unless we change the politics and that’s what we are here for.”

And this is how Kejrival plans to deal with corruption.

“From now on, if you go to a government office for your work and the officials demand a bribe from you, don’t refuse, give them the money and then call me on a number which I will soon announce. Give us their details and we will catch them red-handed. Help us catch every corrupt official red-handed and your work is then my responsibility.”

Within the first week in office, the party has fulfilled its two election promises: to provide free water and cut electricity rates by 50 percent.

The party has also announced that its ministers will end the “VIP culture”... meaning no security guards and luxurious accommodation for officials.

Kejrival even travelled by public train to the swearing-in ceremony.

“If he can keep it up and his ministers can keep it up I think it would resonate because people are very tired of this feudalism,” says Shalija Chandra, former Chief Secretary of Delhi.

“They’re tired of the fact that people make promises but they continue having this kind of a wall built around them.”

The AAP has an ambitious agenda of political and governance reforms.

But how far it will go depends on the support of Congress Party as the party doesn’t have an overall majority.

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