New Delhi: Exactly a year after he resigned and went into near oblivion, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal took oath as Delhi’s chief minister again on Saturday at the Ramlila Maidan as tens of thousands of cheering supporters watched.
Others who took oath as ministers in Kejriwal’s cabinet were Manish Sisodia, Asim Ahmed Khan, Sandeep Kumar, Satyendra Jain, Gopal Rai and Jitendra Tomar.
Kejriwal will hold the portfolios of home, power and finance in the Delhi government.
The 46-year-old former civil servant’s AAP won all but three of the 70 seats in assembly election after pledges to tackle entrenched corruption and lower utility bills won over legions of working-class voters willing to give him another chance.
His first term as chief minister lasted just 49 days and ended in chaos a year ago, sparking accusations he was fleeing the tough job of administration.
Kejriwal’s confidant Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister in the new government, will be allotted the departments of urban development, public works and education.
Satyendra Jain, who was the health minister in the AAP’s earlier 49-day innings, will head the same ministry.
Gopal Rai, one of the four new faces in the seven-member ministry, will be the transport minister. He will also have charge of the labour department.
Sandeep Kumar will be the minister for women and child development. Jitender Tomar will be the new law minister. And Asim Ahmed Khan will be food and civil supplies minister.
The Ramlila ground, in the heart of Delhi, was spruced up thoroughly for Kejriwal, 46, and his ministers to take the oath of office and secrecy. Around 30,000 chairs were placed in neat columns almost till the end of the ground, which often hosts major political rallies.
Kejriwal travelled to the swearing-in ceremony by car and invited the whole city to attend, using radio announcements and social media.
Tens of thousands packed the sprawling Ramlila Maidan Kejriwal took oath.
Cheering AAP supporters started flocking to the ground in the heart of the capital right from the morning, and excitement ran high whenever a prominent party leader was spotted.
While most AAP activists and supporters were from Delhi, large numbers also came from other states, particularly neighbouring Haryana.
Thousands of police and paramilitary personnel deployed at the venue, which had a fresh look, had a tough time as the crowds began to swell just after 9am.
Many in the gathering waved the Indian tricolour and others the AAP flag. Many held large photographs of Kejriwal, who led the AAP to a thumping win in the Delhi assembly election, sweeping 67 of the 70 seats.
While the victory is yet to sink in and celebrations will continue days after the swearing-in ceremony, the AAP needs to keep a tab on what lies ahead, how it will tackle the issues it raised and fulfill promises it made in its election campaign.
After the huge mandate that the AAP got, it will have to go much beyond merely reducing power bills and providing free water or legislating its pet jan lokpal and swaraj bills. It will have to fulfill its long list of promises before people who catapulted it to the grand success become impatient.
The AAP’s earlier innings was marred by sit-ins, conflicts with public utilities and a power struggle with the Centre. This time Kejriwal and his team will have to negotiate their way around with a BJP-led government at the Centre over issues that became a source of tussle with the previous UPA government during AAP’s brief 49-day stint last year.
Full statehood for Delhi and state control of police have been among the AAP’s key demands, with protests by Kejriwal on the issue shutting down roads in the heart of the Capital during his previous term as chief minister.
Kejriwal seems to have started well by taking up the issue of statehood to Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Union home minister Rajnath Singh and urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu.
He, along with senior party leader Manish Sisodia, met with PM Modi who assured them that the Centre will think on the issue of giving full statehood to Delhi.
Speaking to Singh, Kejriwal underlined the need for “constructive cooperation” between the Centre and the Delhi government and noted that political differences should not come in the way of taking the city forward.
Kejriwal’s government may also have to confront the Centre over the jurisdiction of the proposed jan lokpal and the city’s anti-corruption branch.
The AAP had tried to enact the jan lokpal bill and breathe life into the moribund anti-corruption wing during its brief stint last year. The face-off with the Centre after that led to Kejriwal quitting after just 49 days in power.
One of the early decisions of the Modi government in July last year was to strip Delhi’s anti-corruption branch – which reports to the chief minister – of its power to probe central agencies such as the Delhi Police, Delhi Development Authority and the municipal corporations, considered the hotbed of corruption.
The AAP had reacted strongly, accusing the Centre of making “a complete mockery of the anti-corruption mechanism in Delhi”.
This time as well the Capital is set to witness a tug-of-war with the Centre likely to insist on similarly truncated powers for the jan lokpal.
For a party born after the 2012 anti-corruption movement, there is no way Kejriwal will let the Centre’s decision go unchallenged, said an AAP leader.
He, however, added that the tone of confrontation would be different this time.
“We have the numbers and time on our side,” he said, adding that the party would use its “moral and political authority” to push for full statehood for the Capital.
The AAP’s victory comes at a time when Delhi’s neighbouring states are being governed by other parties and it will have to maintain cordial ties with them. Uttarakhand has a Congress government, Haryana has a BJP government and Uttar Pradesh has a Samajwadi Party government.
The recent statement by Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar that his water-deficit state alone should not be banked upon for meeting the water needs of Delhi is a pointer to a possible build-up of tension between the two state governments.
Then there are other issues which affect the common man and woman on a daily basis and the AAP has promised once again to provide free water, halve power bills and enforce a measure of discipline and restraint on Delhi Police.
The first thing the AAP plans to take up is cutting electricity costs and ordering an audit of power companies and will have to look for permanent solutions without shifting blame.
The party is committed to building 20 new colleges, 2 lakh public toilets and 47 fast-track courts, besides promising bus marshals, 5,000 new buses, 8 lakh jobs, 30,000 beds in hospitals, and free WiFi across the city. The two poll promises that the party intends to attend to on priority are women’s security and free WiFi.
Kejriwal’s second term needs to be more about governance and ensure that AAP will deliver on its promises made to the people of Delhi.