Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, sworn as chief minister for the third time on Sunday, forgave his opponents and sought the blessings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the development of Delhi.
Instead of inviting the chief ministers of other states to the swearing-in — the occasion is often used as a show of Opposition unity — Kejriwal’s cabinet surrounded themselves with 50 “Dilli ke Nirmaata (makers of Delhi)”.
They included teachers, doctors, architects, Metro train drivers, civil defence wardens, businesspersons, students, workers, widows of martyrs and engineers.
Keeping up his family man avatar — a strategy that successfully wooed voters — Kejriwal said: “Your son has taken the oath of office for the third time today. This is not my victory, this is your victory. This is the victory of each and every Delhiite, every mother, sister, youth, student, teacher, and every family of Delhi. In the past five years, we have tried to bring prosperity and happiness in the lives of each and every Delhiite…. You can call up your villages and say that you do not need to worry because your son is the chief minister now.”
In a gesture of conciliation after the most vitriolic poll campaign here in recent memory, Kejriwal said: “Whatever our opponents called us, we forgive them…. I would also like to request the Opposition parties to forget what happened during the elections. I want to work together with all the parties for the development of Delhi. I want to work together with the central government to make Delhi a world-class city.
“I had also invited the Hon’ble Prime Minister to the oath ceremony today, but I guess he could not make it because he is busy. I want the Hon’ble PM to bless us so that we can work for the development and progress of Delhi,” he said.
More than 50,000 people turned up for the event at the Ramlila Maidan — the place where his mentor Anna Hazare, with Kejriwal by his side, went on a hunger strike for an ombudsman law in 2011.
AAP sources said that instead of being typecast as just another Opposition leader, this was Kejriwal’s attempt at weaving a new narrative as a common man’s leader who delivers. The party is now seeking to expand through contests in municipal polls in other states.
He retained all six ministers of the previous cabinet. A survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies shows that 60 per cent of women voted for the AAP, much more than men among whom only 49 per cent voted for the party.
However, the cabinet is yet to get a woman minister. Educationist Atishi and Dalit leader Rakhi Birla were considered contenders, yet Kejriwal has stuck with continuity to avoid dissent within the party that has seen two spells of rebellion in the past five years.
The trend started by “Baby Mufflerman” Aavyan Tomar seems to have caught on. Not one but many “Little Kejriwals”, dressed up in the politician’s trademark winter wear and sporting a make-believe moustache, showed up at the Ramlila Maidan. At least six infants dressed up as Kejriwal were at the venue with their parents.
Aavyan’s pictures had gone viral last Tuesday, the day the votes were counted, when he appeared outside the AAP headquarters in Delhi and played around in front of the ceremonial platform as Kejriwal addressed a gathering after his party had swept the elections again.
Aavyan, a little more than a year old, and his parents attended Sunday’s event where the infant was a special invitee.
The five other “Baby Mufflermen” at the ground came from the same family. Three brothers — Kashif, Sajid and Wajid, from the Mirza family of Old Delhi — had brought their children, all aged two to six years, dressed in matching maroon sweaters, black trousers and muffler.
The youngest, Abu Bakar, son of Sajid Mirza, 32, sat astride his father’s shoulders as he waved a big Tricolour. “I am Kejriwal,” Abu said, when asked his name.
Abu goes to kindergarten, so he is “a KGwall”, Sajid said in a lighter vein.
Report by PTI