Once an Agitator, Now in Charge of Delhi’s Government


NEW DELHI — On Saturday morning, Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, took the subway from his house in Ghaziabad, a suburb bordering Delhi, to Barakhamba Road in central Delhi. This was an unusual way to travel for someone about to be inaugurated as the city’s chief minister. But Mr. Kejriwal, the harbinger of a new paradigm in Indian politics, has done much to suggest a flair for the unusual.

The venue for Mr. Kejriwal’s inauguration, too, was a departure from previous ceremonies. The Ramlila Maidan, a large, sprawling ground in central Delhi was chosen as the site where Mr. Kejriwal would take oath as chief minister of Delhi. The city’s political elite and the pomp of a motor cavalcade were shunned. Instead, Mr. Kejriwal held out an open invitation for ordinary citizens to attend. An estimated 100,000 of them showed up.

Sohan Lal, 87, traveled nearly 70 kilometers (43 miles) from his native Baghpat, a town in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, to attend the inauguration. Mr. Lal took a crowded early morning train to the capital and then a local bus. The bus dropped him nearly a kilometer from the venue. Mr. Lal covered the last stretch by foot.

When a fellow attendee at the inauguration asked him if all this effort was a bit perilous for someone his age, Mr. Lal shot back, “I am here to see history with my own eyes.”

In 2011, the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi was the epicenter of the anticorruption protests, led by the activist Anna Hazare, which shook up the governing coalition of the central government. A year later, as the government stalled on drafting an anticorruption law demanded by the activists, Mr. Kejriwal, who had shot to national prominence as Mr. Hazare’s lieutenant, broke away from his mentor to create the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, Party….

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