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New Delhi, Dec 27: The stage is set for a new and exciting chapter in India’s political history to unfold here as Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, who stunned everyone with his party’s electoral success, will take oath as Delhi’s seventh chief minister along with six ministers at the Ramlila Maidan on Saturday.
The sprawling Ramlila Maidan, lying between Old and New Delhi, that is been the venue of many a historic political rally in the past six decades, will provide the unlikely setting for Saturday afternoon’s swearing-in ceremony that will see the activist-turned-political debutant storm into political power on the back of a campaign that became the cynosure of not just the country but the world.
Ramlila Maidan was the venue where anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare fasted for 12 days in 2011 to press for an anti-graft Jan Lokpal bill, with Kejriwal by his side. Kejriwal fell out with Hazare since he formed the Aam Aadmi Party in November last year to take the power route to fight graft, but has invited the Gandhian for the oath-taking ceremony amid doubts over his attendance.
The AAP has also invited former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and former police officer Kiran Bedi, who were with Kejriwal in 2011, for the ceremony.
Kejriwal, 45, will be sworn in by Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung at a function expected to draw tens of thousands of supporters and citizens of Delhi who have a lot of expectations from him.
The proposed ministers are former journalists Manish Sisodia, 41, and Rakhi Birla, 26, former lawyers Saurabh Bharadwaj, 34, and Somnath Bharti, 39, architect Satyendra Jain, 49, and businessman Girish Soni, 49.
A woman, Birla will be one of the youngest ministers in India.
Kejriwal has pledged to pass a Jan Lokpal bill within 15 days of taking office to battle corruption. Slashing power tariff by half and providing 700 litres of water per day to needy households are among the key promises made by the AAP.
Kejriwal, who won the Magsaysay award in 2006 for “emergent leadership”, said he, his ministers and lawmakers would take the Metro train ride to reach Ramlila Maidan.
“I will travel by Metro for the oath taking ceremony,” Kejriwal told the media in a posturing that sets him apart. His wife Sunita, an Indian Revenue Service officer like him before he became a campaigner and then a politician, and his two children – a daughter and a son – will accompany him.
Kejriwal, who said everyone was welcome at the swearing-in ceremony, appealed to people to use public transport.
It will be a minority government — the AAP won only 28 seats in the 70-member assembly — and will depend on the backing of the eight legislators of the Congress, which was voted out after 15 years of uninterrupted rule.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which despite being the largest single party refused to form a government, will be the main opposition with 31 members.
The Congress said it is supporting AAP so it can fulfil its poll promises, and has clarified it will continue to prop up the AAP.
Born in Haryana and now residing at Kaushambi adjoining Delhi, Kejriwal, an IIT Kharagpur graduate in mechanical engineering, has refused security and also an official bungalow allotted to the chief minister.
Delhi Police have laid out an elaborate security cover for the event.
The Delhi administration has provided around 25,000 chairs at the Ramlila Maidan which can accommodate around 50,000 people if they stand. But AAP has said it will not have a “VIP enclosure” and even Kejriwal’s parents will be seated with the audience below the canopied concrete podium.