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Common Man party chief Kejriwal – crusader or opportunist?

In India's political scene today, it is difficult to ignore Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal. An engineer turned bureaucrat, turned activist, turned politician -- it is in his last two career changes that Mr Kejriwal has found millions of supporters.

NEW DELHI: Just three years ago, not many people had heard of Arvind Kejriwal. Today, one cannot talk about Indian politics without mentioning his name.

Mr Kejriwal beat Sheila Dixit, who had been chief minister of Delhi for 15 years in Assembly Polls last year.

Even though he did not last long in the position, he is not giving up on politics.

An engineer turned bureaucrat, turned activist, turned politician – it is in his last two career changes that Mr Kejriwal has found millions of supporters.

But his self-confessed anarchist tactics are something his critics deride.

Born to a middle-class family 45 years ago, Mr Kejriwal's first brush with Indian bureaucracy was when he joined the tax and revenue department, and perhaps that was what set him on the path he is on today.

In 2006, Mr Kejriwal went on sabbatical from his government job to fight for transparency in the government. He reportedly lost faith in the establishment, after a decade in its service.

His fight against corruption took him on hunger strikes for days, and he eventually formed his own party -- the Aam Aadmi or Common Man party.

Through it all, Mr Kejriwal has passionately attacked politicians for their corrupt ways: “Some say they are in Congress, others say they are in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), what have these parties given us?

“If they cause inflation, then it affects all of us, if they loot, then they loot all of us. What have they given us until now? So, all of you get together this time because if you lose this chance then there will be no turning back."

Criticised by opponents as an opportunist, Mr Kejriwal asserted that he jumped into the political arena to clean it up from the top.

This claim had galvanised a large number of Delhi voters in last year's assembly elections, and catapulted him to become chief minister.

But Mr Kejriwal only lasted 49 days in the post, resigning over delays in passing the anti-corruption bill.

It was a move that let some of his supporters down.

Political analyst R Rajagopalan said: "Mr Kejriwal ran away from the system. He could not face the onslaughts by the opposition. The majority of the people were against Mr Kejriwal. His dramatic things did not work in Delhi Assembly.”

Dramatic his moves may be, but whether you view him as a crusader or an opportunist, Arvind Kejriwal just cannot be ignored in India's political scene today. 

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