NEW DELHI: Anti-corruption champion Arvind Kejriwal was sworn in Saturday as chief minister of Indias national capital region in what supporters hoped would mark a turning point in the nations graft-ridden politics.
Huge cheers rang out as Kejriwal, who arrived for the ceremony on the citys subway, took the oath office in front of tens of thousands of supporters assembled in a Delhi park wearing white caps emblazoned with Kejriwals slogan, I am a common man.
I will do my duties as a minister honestly, without any fear or bias, Kejriwal said as he took the oath on a flower bedecked dais.
Cries of Long Live the Aam Admi Party and Mother India rang out from the sea of supporters while some waved placards saying Today Delhi, Tomorrow the Country.
Police estimates of the crowd ranged as high as 100,000.
The promise of delivering change was his poll-plank and he set-off on it immediately by shunting nine senior bureaucrats in key departments like water resources and transport, and shunning red beacon and private secuity officers.
Delhi got a glimpse of Kejriwal’s new style of governance when he spent six hours in office after being sworn-in and announced that by early next week the word would be in on his promised steps regarding slashing electricity tarriff and enhanced water supply to all parts of the national capital.
Kejriwals upstart Aam Admi Party made a stunning electoral debut, winning 28 assembly seats in recent state polls and delivering a stinging defeat to the Congress party which rules at the national level.
It is the common mans victory, Kejriwal declared ahead of taking the subway to his swearing-in unprecedented for any Indian dignitary going to an oath-taking ceremony.
If we all come together then we can can change the country, he said.
The former tax inspectors decision to use public transport echoes his pre-poll promise to end the VIP culture of Delhis political elite and set a down-to-earth tone for his new administration.
No dignitaries had been formally invited to Ramlila Maidan where Kejriwal took the oath.
The grounds are considered ground zero of Indias corruption movement where some of the biggest rallies against a string of government graft scandals were held two years ago.
A former revenue service official, 45-year-old Kejriwal, who broke from Anna Hazare’s campaign for Lokpal and helped Aam Aadmi Party make a stunning debut in electoral politics winning 28 of the 70 seats, took the oath of office and secrecy at a public ceremony in the historic Ramlila Maidan, the fast venue of the anti-graft campaigners more than two years ago.
With the tag of an outsider in established politics, Kejriwal immediately hit the street running with his cabinet deciding to shed vestiges of VIP culture like security and red beacon cars and official bungalows, opting instead for modest government flats.
Some observers believe Kejriwals victory in Delhi could be mark the start of a national election campaign.
The rookie partys symbol is a broom to underline its commitment to sweeping away Indias culture of bribery and corruption that critics say has become endemic in politics and in daily life.
Kejriwal, named top news weekly India Todays Newsmaker Of The Year, eschewed the customary motorcade with its wailing sirens to take him to the swearing-in ceremony.
He has declared that he will abolish the culture of privilege surrounding New Delhis politicians.
Unlike his predecessorsAsserting that it is a very historic day, Kejriwal said, “The oath we are taking today is not of Arvind Kejriwal and the other ministers but people of Delhi have taken the oath.
“The whole fight is not to make Arvind Kejriwal a Chief Minister but it is for a change of governance in Delhi”.
The new Chief Minister said the huge responsibility thrust upon him has instilled a sense of fear in him. “I don’t claim to have a magic wand or remedies for all the ills but if the 1.5 crore people of Delhi join him there is no reason why all the problems can’t be solved,” he said. , Kejriwal, whose backers range from taxi drivers and teachers to business proprietors and servants, has said he and his ministers will not occupy the sprawling bungalows surrounded by lush lawns built by Indias former British colonial rulers.
He assured officials that there will be no witch-hunt against officials who work honestly and in people’s interest.
“No minister or official in Delhi government will be allowed to use red beacon,” Kejriwal said after chairing the first cabinet meeting.
The cabinet also decided that no Personal Security Officer and escort vehicle will be be provided to any official.
“Security is to be allowed based on threat perception,” he said.
In its manifesto, AAP had promised to end VIP culture in Delhi.
In its manifesto, AAP had promised to slash power tariff by 50 per cent besides carrying out scrutiny of the accounts of private power distribution companies.
Kejriwal said word is being spread that there would be a witch-hunt against officials and a sense of fear has been created among them.
“In my meeting with the officials, I told them you work with honesty and in the interest of people, I will protect you,” he said.
Kejriwal, who lives in Kausambi in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh, said his team was looking for a house in Delhi and he would shift there in two-three days. Agencies
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