New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal, derided by his rivals as the “runaway Chief Minister”, has made a spectacular comeback in Delhi.
He returns exactly a year after he abruptly quit office. The move earned him more criticism than praise, even within his party, but the 46-year-old former taxman has proved that in politics, everyone gets a second chance.
The anti-graft champion and self-styled anarchist began his renewed campaign for Delhi with an apology and an admission that he had made a mistake.
When he announced his candidature for the May national election from Varanasi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was accused of quitting Delhi so he could gain national spotlight. The criticism did not break his resolve.
The turnaround that his Aam Aadmi Party managed in one year is seen as historic.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP won a stunning majority in the national election, reducing its opposition into double digits. AAP has now rivalled the feat in Delhi, leaving the BJP as a puny opposition with just three members in the assembly.
In his second stint, Arvind Kejriwal promises to tackle corruption and VIP culture.
“I want to end rishvatkhori (bribery),” he told NDTV.
Despite living with a security contingent for over a year, the father of two insists he wants no security detail.
Since he launched his party in 2012, the relatively new politician has two big achievements to his credit. In 2013, his party decimated the Congress, and emerged as a strong challenger to the BJP.
Today, AAP takes credit for ending the BJP’s winning streak since May, when it won a massive mandate to rule India.
Euphoric AAP leaders said, “In 2013 we were a start-up. Now we are a full party.”
Mr Kejriwal, a mechanical engineer from IIT-Kharagpur, joined the Indian Revenue Service in 1995. He left his job as a tax official in 2001 to join the anti-corruption campaign that would change his life and the course of Indian politics.
After leaving government service, he campaigned to bring in India’s Right to Information Act in 2005, which earned him the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006.
Six years later, he teamed up with activist Anna Hazare to demand the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, which creates a national ombudsman to investigate venality among elected representatives and bureaucrats.
Though their relationship ultimately soured, the campaign planted Mr Kejriwal onto the national stage. The Lokpal Bill was passed by Parliament.
In November 2012, Mr Kejriwal launched the Aam Aadmi Party, earning the ire of Anna, who wanted it to remain an apolitical movement.
He chose the broom as his party symbol. “The broom symbolises a clean sweep of India’s rotten politics; the white Gandhi cap connects India to an era ‘when we had a politics of honesty and a politics of public service,'” he had said in an interview.
In 2013, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra described AAP as “mango people in a banana republic”.
Since then, “Mango man” has morphed into “Mufflerman” – the new superhero whose arsenal is his simplicity and perseverance.