Skip to main content

Originally published February 14, 2014 at 5:01 PM | Page modified February 14, 2014 at 8:07 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Indian anti-graft crusader quits Delhi government after 49 days

Many viewed Arvind Kejriwal’s decision as a strategic move, allowing him to shift his focus to a more ambitious goal: Buoyed by its success in Delhi, his party now plans to run hundreds of candidates in the general elections in May.

The New York Times

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >


NEW DELHI — Arvind Kejriwal, a protest leader who was vaulted into the top post of Delhi’s city government after a startling electoral victory, resigned Friday after 49 tumultuous days in office, saying his central anti-corruption initiative was being stonewalled by legislators from India’s two well-established parties.

Kejriwal had threatened to quit unless the state Legislature passed the Jan Lokpal Bill, which would create a body responsible for investigating complaints of corruption against public officials. The threat initially sounded melodramatic, coming so soon after he had taken office. But by Friday, the assembly had erupted into pandemonium, and his motion to introduce a vote on the bill was defeated.

Kejriwal framed his decision as a principled one, and when he addressed supporters outside party headquarters, they cheered as if he was announcing a victory. He said he would request that new elections for Delhi’s legislative assembly be held as soon as possible.

Many viewed his decision as a strategic move, allowing him to shift his focus to a more ambitious goal: Buoyed by its success in Delhi, his Aam Aadmi — or Common Man — Party, now plans to run hundreds of candidates in the general elections in May, posing an unexpected challenge the country’s two heavyweights, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.

“I am a very ordinary man, and I did not come here for power,” he told several hundred cheering supporters. “If I have to give up the chief minister’s chair a hundred times, I will sacrifice it a hundred times.”

Typically, the lieutenant governor would invite the assembly’s largest party — in this case, the BJP, which has 31 seats — to form a new state government. If the BJP refuses, the assembly will be dissolved and new elections held. In the interim, Delhi would come under presidential rule.

In some ways, Kejriwal’s resignation marked the swift deflation of a political experiment. Last year, Aam Aadmi seemed to capture the swelling frustration of this city’s middle classes, voters who have become increasingly alienated from those who govern them, and stunned the political class by winning 28 of Delhi’s 70 seats.

Finding himself unexpectedly in office, he faced an extraordinary challenge making good on his campaign promises. Thousands of part-time teachers had canvassed for him based on the expectation that he would make them full time, a move that would have strained the state budget.

Many believed that Kejriwal had devised a brilliant beginning for his next act. Though his dramatic gestures since taking office, such as the sit-in, may have alienated elites, “the underclasses still see him as a savior,” said Neerja Chowdhury, a journalist and political analyst.

“He has taken a gamble,” she said. “He is going to go national, and he has decided that this is the way to do it.”

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon



Celebrate that amazing NFC win with a poster or tee shirt featuring The Seattle Times Jan. 19 front page. Order now!


Partner Video


The Seattle Times photographs

Seattle space needle and mountains

Purchase The Seattle Times images

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►