Insider-outsider: Hottest start-up in Indian politics makes frenzied debut

Arvind KejriwalArvind Kejriwal did not hesitate to focus on his own projection as the leader people began to trust. (Reuters)

Not long ago, he headed to some of the poorest neighbourhoods of Delhi with his NGO Parivartan, got ration cards made and used the RTI Act so effectively he had many politicians breaking into a sweat. In April 2011, he and his army of volunteers staged the Jantar Mantar sit-in, then surfaced again at the Ramlila Maidan. Riding an anti-politician wave they had helped set off cashing in on the tarnished image of UPA II, Kejriwal and his then moral guardian Anna Hazare became the face of one of the most concerted assaults on the "political system".

On Sunday, barely a year after he announced the formation of a political party, Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party has trounced the Congress and stopped the BJP in its tracks to emerge as the principal opposition in the Delhi Assembly.

Has the national capital, India's fastest growing — and, arguably, its most improved — metropolis noted for its migrant-friendly face, finally found its own regional party? Or is it more than that, reflective of a general urban unease with the established politics of the Congress and the BJP, and an experiment which could be replicated elsewhere in a rapidly urbanising India?

As a former Indian Revenue Service officer, Kejriwal understood the establishment in reforming India (economic and governance reform) and was able to tap into the deep annoyance created by heightening expectations.

His IIT Kharagpur education, networking across its powerful old boys' association — that helped from hosting fundraisers to providing an army of earnest volunteers — and marrying the alienation of those away from power but wanting a say, from the NRI to the jhuggi-dweller, gave him a solid, deep edge that older political parties may want to learn from.

Kejriwal played the insider-outsider role with great conviction.

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