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Asia-pacific

Fledgling anti-corruption party to take power in Delhi

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-23

A new party promising to sweep away the corruption that plagues much of Indian politics is set to take power in the country’s largest city New Delhi after announcing Monday it will form a minority government.

Making its electoral debut in a vote earlier this month, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or Common Man’s Party, shook up the country’s political establishment by taking 28 of New Delhi’s 70 assembly seats, but remained short of a majority.

It initially said it would not form a minority government, but the party’s executive Arvind Kejriwal reversed that decision Monday after the incumbent Congress party, which leads India’s national coalition, said it would support an AAP administration with the eight seats it holds in the assembly.

Kejriwal’s announcement ended two weeks of speculation and fears of a hung assembly in New Delhi.

India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party won 32 seats in the New Delhi elections but no other political group was willing to offer it support.

The AAP, born out of the anti-graft movement that swept India two years ago, has tapped into a growing middle-class anger towards India’s politicians, who are often perceived to be siphoning off public funds instead of providing public services.

Nationally, almost a third of India’s lawmakers face criminal charges and many are shielded by a slow-moving legal system.

The Congress party itself is currently mired in several state-level and national corruption scandals and the AAP took the unusual step of consulting voters as to whether it should try to form a government with Congress’s support.

“We asked people through our website, SMS and through public meetings in the last week,” Kejriwal, a mild-mannered former tax official, said at a press conference. “The result that has come is that people in big numbers are saying Aam Admi Party should form the government.”

Alarm bells

AAP’s success in New Delhi is an alarm bell for the Congress and the BJP ahead of a national election due by May, underlining that an increasingly young and urban electorate is fed up.

“The main thing (about AAP) is that they are different. Most of the political parties put up criminals as candidates and most of them just get into politics for money,” said Nikhil Ramdev, a 19-year-old law student from West Delhi.

“It’s a business for them. People are getting more and more frustrated. That’s why a first-time party got so many votes.”

However, some of the more the radical promises made by the AAP in its manifesto, which included a pledge to send the city’s corrupt lawmakers to jail within one year and to half electricity bills partly by cracking down on falsely inflated bills, may have to be curtailed as part of its deal with Congress.

Under the agreement, Congress will only back Kejriwal on an issue by issue basis.

“The support is not unconditional,” Sheila Dikshit, the outgoing chief minister of New Delhi, told reporters.

“As time progresses, and as their work starts, then we will take each issue separately. There is no bar in removing support in case we feel that it is anti-people or anti-government.”

The new government will be sworn in on Thursday.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-12-23

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