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Arvind Kejriwal: A mascot of unconventional politics

Saturday, 28 December 2013 - 12:44pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI
  • DNA

Emerging as a mascot of an alternative brand of politics, engineer-turned civil servant Arvind Kejriwal has changed the political discourse to steer his AAP to power--a sweet revenge for the activist's fledgling party that was once branded as "mango people in a banana republic".

Leading from the front, the 45-year-old leader of Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) anchored his campaign in an unconventional way to see it become the second largest party in Delhi Assembly elections with a stunning showing that halted the 15-year rule of Congress.

With interests of the common man at the core of AAP's agenda, Kejriwal's triumph over three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to become her successor today was the proverbial icing on the cake to earn him the tag of 'giant killer'.

The country's newest star on the political horizon, who tasted success at his very first outing at the hustings, was handed his most memorable nickname in an outburst by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra earlier this year when AAP was dubbed as "mango people in a banana republic".

Often called the anti-corruption man, the diminutive and bespectacled IITian and a former tax official has catapulted himself from one of the many proponents of an ombudsman to check graft to the force behind a widely popular people's movement. A renowned activist, who was dismissed as a political greenhorn, cemented his place in politics with an impressive political debut for his one-year-old AAP that challenged the political establishment.

Kejriwal has thrown the rule book of Indian politics out of the window with his anti-corruption party that began as a social movement, tapping into the new energies fizzing all over India--students, farmers, civil rights groups, NGOs, social activists, women’s groups and the urban youth.

Born on August 16, 1968 in Hisar in Haryana to Gobind Ram Kejriwal and Gita Devi, Arvind sent the entire political spectrum into a tizzy, attacking both BJP and Congress on the issues of corruption, exorbitant rise in power and water tariff, safety of women and had managed to make a dent in the vote banks of both the parties.

Belying all claims of being a "non-actor or no factor" in the Delhi Assembly elections by Congress and BJP, Kejriwal, a man of simple tastes, came into prominence from the agitation by 75-year-old activist Anna Hazare in support of Jan Lokpal Bill in 2011.

Soft-spoken but a man with strong conviction, the Ramon Magsaysay award winner was part of the Team Anna, along with first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and others.

He was the civil society representative member of the committee constituted by the Government to draft the Jan Lokpal bill, following the campaign for introduction of such legislation.

After feeling "betrayed" by the government when it rejected their draft, Congress and other leaders challenged them to join politics, win elections and come to Parliament if they wanted to "fight system from within", root out corruption and get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed.

Known for taking on challenges, the indefatigable activist decided to take a plunge into politics and formed "Aam Aadmi Party" on November 26 last year, after a formal split of Team Anna.

The party name — Aam Aadmi Party — reflects the phrase Aam Aadmi or "common man", whose interests Kejriwal proposed to represent and got its poll symbol "broom" in July this year.

A bright academic, Kejriwal passed out as a Mechanical Engineering graduate from IIT Kharagpur.

He joined Tata Steel in 1989 and after working for three years, he resigned in 1992 to take up the Union Public Service Commission examination which he cleared to become an Indian Revenue Service(IRS) officer.

Being in government service, Kejriwal was active in taking up social cause and worked for implementation of Right to Information Act(RTI) at grass root level.

His efforts in the enactment of the RTI Act to empower the poorest citizens of India won him the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership in 2006.

In February 2006, after resigning as Joint Commissioner in the Income Tax Department he became a full-time activist and started an NGO, Public Cause Research Foundation, with his award money as a corpus fund.

A strict vegetarian who prefers home-made food, Kejriwal is married to Sunita, who is also an IRS officer and his batchmate from National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie.

The couple have two children, a daughter Harshita and a son Pulkit. He has a younger sister and brother.


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