From 'nice guy' at IIT to Delhi CM, meet those who knew Arvind Kejriwal before the world did

KejriwalColleagues and friends believe that the change in Kejriwal began after he joined IRS. (IE Photo)

From the 'nice guy' at IIT Kharagpur who blended debate, drama and managing his hostel canteen to Delhi's youngest Chief Minister — The Sunday Express meets some of those who knew Arvind Kejriwal before the world did. Report by APURVA

Arvind Kejriwal's first and only tryst with elections, before stunning the political establishment in Delhi at the helm of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), was for his hostel's mess secretary post. This was in 1986, his second year at IIT Kharagpur.

In his one-year stint as the Nehru Hall Council mess secretary, Kejriwal would get a crash course in people management — satisfying 400 perpetually disgruntled students, keeping the strong unionised mess employees happy and ensuring a supply of fresh food. His batchmates remember few complaints during his tenure.

From 400 students to the 1.7 crore people of Delhi is a big transition. Kejriwal has made that leap even bigger with the heights he has set for himself. But as his fellow students, ex-associates and friends attest, many an opponent has been taken by surprise by the 45-year-old with the deceptively lean build. A debate champion, particularly in Hindi, a mechanical engineer who loved video games, especially Pacman and Tetris, and a former Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, Kejriwal has donned many a hat, but there were always signs that it may build up to the cap he wears now as the aam aadmi.

Contrary to the fiery orator and giant killer of today, Kejriwal's batchmates from IIT Kharagpur remember him as an introvert and studious. Saikat Sarkar, who was a year senior, says Kejriwal would figure any day in his list of top five 'nice guys'. "He was a good guy. Never aggressive, sensible and always somebody one could rely on. Out of a class of 35 students, Arvind was always in the top 10 or 12. He was well-rounded. It was only in sports that he showed little interest," says Sarkar.

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