Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Kejriwal: Delhi’s unconventional chief minister

Himalayan Paths

By Alok Singh

New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) It surely was an unusual setting for such a high-level official meeting. Seated in the living room of his modest apartment at Kaushambi, a suburb of Delhi, where Arvind Kejriwal and his family have been staying for around a decade, was the chief minister, sitting cross-legged on his sofa at home, a shawl draped around him and a woollen cap swathing his head and ears.

For Delhi government bureaucrats it was the first such experience with an unconventional chief minister out to set a new benchmark in governance. The occasion was the first high-level meeting of the new government to discuss free water for citizens of Delhi, a major poll promise of the Aam Admi Party (AAP).

It was the first major decision he took on Monday, the third day of his newbie administration.

The chief minister was suffering from a bad cough and fever but decided to stick to his schedule and his commitment to the people of Delhi. Present in the small sitting-cum dining room were 18 members of the Delhi Jal Board, the public utility, which included CEO Vijay Kumar and Finance Secretary M.M. Kutty.

Kejriwal was seated on his sofa while Kumar and Kutty were opposite on the sofa in the drawing room of the middle-class Girnar Tower home, a party member close to the chief minister who was present at the meeting told IANS.

The two bureaucrats briefed the chief minister and other party members on ramifications of the AAP poll promise to give 666 litres of free water daily to Delhi homes. Other DJB officials who were standing there also gave their opinions. Kejriwal, who looked quite ill, heard them patiently.

The two-bed room apartment located on the fourth floor of Girnar Tower building where Kejriwal lives with his parents, wife and two children, has been brimming with activity since Dec 8. The AAP decimated the ruling Congress to emerge as second largest party with 28 seats in the Delhi polls.

“The chief minister was wearing a monkey cap, had socks on his feet and a shawl draped around him. He was sitting cross-legged on the sofa as he declared free water for the Delhi people,” the party member told IANS, strictly on condition of anonymity as he was not supposed to disclose official matters.

Kejriwal has not been well for the past week. His ill health aggravated on Sunday evening – a day after his swearing in as chief minister.

On Monday he had tweeted: “Running 102 fever since yesterday (Sunday). Severe loose motions. Sad that I won’t be able to attend office today (Monday). God, bahut galat time par bimaar kiya (god, you made me ill at a very wrong time).”

On Tuesday, he could not wait to go to work and drove in his blue colour WagonR car to meet the Delhi Comptroller and Auditor General. Along with four volunteers he reached at CAG office in central Delhi. The meeting was concluded within a few minutes and, after briefing the media, the chief minister left for a cabinet meeting at the Delhi Secretariat.

Kejriwal’s unconventional way of travelling and moving around is getting noticed by citizens of Delhi and drawing appreciation.

Outside the CAG office, a motley group people standing at a tea stall were discussing the chief minister. One of them said “CM ho to aisa ho” (A chief minister should be like him). One person said probably the chief minister was driving himself. The IANS correspondent, who was listening to their conversation, informed them that Kejriwal was accompanied by some party supporters.

The tea stall owner recounted that a few months back former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had come to the CAG office. There was huge police presence and common people were not allowed to stand there that day.

The new chief minister’s casual dressing style, wearing either a simple pullover or a sports jacket and the trademark AAP sidecap, is now turning into a style statement for the youth. Many youth supporters of AAP are often found wearing the party’s white Gandhi caps with the party message – “Main aam aadmi hoon”(I am a common man), and “Mujhe swaraj chahiye” (I want self rule), inscribed on it during their daily work.

Two youths, who apparently wanted to show their support to AAP, had fixed the cap on their car’s dashboard so that people could see the cap and read its message.

When the IANS reporter asked them why they had placed the cap like this they replied that the cap has come to symbolise “free man and a corruption free society”.

Earlier, Kejriwal used to himself drive the WagonR. The difference now is that it is driven by party volunteers with the chief minister in the rear seat.

(Alok Singh can be contacted [email protected])

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