Aam Aadmi Party vows to clean up India's corrupt political scene

Fledgling party's vow to shake up the status quo strikes chord with India's rich and poor alike

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 1:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 1:58am

The dinner parties that economist Anu Bhasin hosts in her elegantly furnished New Delhi living room are full of laughter, banter and off-colour jokes about the vile species destroying India with its corruption, the politicians.

On Thursday, however, one of this species was found sitting on her ivory leather sofa at Bhasin's special request. He was in her living room to explain how he was a different candidate.

Referring to India's two main parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Somnath Bharati told the gathering: "For over 60 years they have been corrupt ... we will root out corruption if you give us the chance."

Bharati is a candidate of India's new party, the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man's Party) which is fighting its first election for the Delhi state assembly on December 4. The party has burst on to the political landscape, shaking up the two main parties .

"I had already decided to vote for them but I invited Bharati to speak to my friends so that we could gauge his sincerity and policies. We need to give them a chance because the others have been disastrous," Bhasin said.

Not everyone was completely won over, however. After listening to Bharati, Janvi Singh, 21 and a masters student who has just returned from Glasgow, said: "It's all talk. They probably won't be any better than the rogues we've got. Sorry to be so cynical but all Indian politicians end up the same when they are in power."

Meanwhile AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, 44, walks around a slum in Sarojini Nagar, chatting with auto rickshaw wallahs and maids. He hopes his one-year-old party can make the nation corruption-free and offer effective, clean government.

Kejriwal was already well known as a follower of Anna Hazare, a Gandhian who made headlines two years ago with his anti-corruption campaign.

The politicians he hopes to topple are beginning to sound nervous, not because he may win, but because his support will eat into their share of the vote. One survey showed the AAP had increased its likely vote share from 15 per cent in August to 32 per cent in October.

"Kejriwal is willing to listen. For people used to crooks and scoundrels, one of his big strengths is that he is responsive," said political commentator Satish Jacob. "Making corruption a central issue will attract the poor and the middle class."

The residents of Jangpura crowded around as he walked from shack to shack. "I'm not going to take any money the other parties may offer me. I'm going to vote for an honest party this time," said Ashok Tilak, a driver.

Kejriwal smiled at him. "This election is going to be unlike any other. It will be a contest between honesty and corruption. If we win, politics in India will never be the same again."