Kejriwal, six others to take oath Saturday (Third Lead)

New Delhi, Dec 25: Arvind Kejriwal, who led AAP to a spectacular performance in the assembly election, will take oath at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan here Saturday as Delhi’s seventh chief minister.

The 45-year-old activist-turned-politician will be sworn-in along with six other Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators at a ceremony at 12 noon that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.

The AAP’s proposed ministers are Manish Sisodia, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Somnath Bharti, Rakhi Birla, Satyendra Jain and Girish Soni.

President Pranab Mukherjee cleared the decks for the formation of a minority AAP government with Congress backing and chief minister-designate Kejriwal may be asked to prove majority by Jan 3, official sources said.

AAP leader Kumar Vishwas said: “We have requested the Lt. Governor (Najeeb Jung) that we want to take oath on Dec 28 (Saturday), and he has agreed.”

The decision to opt for Dec 28, instead of the earlier Dec 26, was taken at a meeting of party leaders at Kejriwal’s Kaushambi house in Uttar Pradesh.

Vishwas said the AAP had invited Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and former police officer Kiran Bedi for the swearing-in.

Ramlila Maidan was where Hazare, with Hegde, Bedi and Kejriwal as his aides, undertook a 12-day anti-corruption fast in 2011, triggering mass solidarity protests across India.

Kejriwal, who formed the AAP in November last year, has since fallen out with Hazare and Bedi.

Listing his priorities, Kejriwal said, despite the hurdles, his party would pass the Jan Lokpal bill within 15 days of forming the government.

Earlier, Kejriwal denied there was any rift within the AAP over his proposed cabinet.

Two-time municipal councillor Vinod Kumar Binny had walked out of a party meeting Tuesday where the decision on cabinet ministers was taken – after he was not included in the team.

This triggered intense speculation overnight that he was upset and might revolt.

Kejriwal said: “Binny met me in the evening (Tuesday) and informed me he did not want any post. He told the same thing to the media.”

Binny, who defeated former health minister A.K. Walia in Laxmi Nagar in the Dec 4 assembly polls, said he was not upset on being denied a cabinet berth.

Magsaysay Award winner Kejriwal defeated three-time chief minister Shiela Dikshit, who had governed Delhi for 15 long years, in the New Delhi constituency by over 25,000 votes.

In the elections, the AAP got 28 seats in the 70-member Delhi assembly. The Congress was routed, winning only eight. The Bharatiya Janata Party won 31 seats but did not form a government saying it lacked the numbers to govern.

Kejriwal staked claim to form the government Monday after a five-day referendum where people voted “yes” or “no” over taking outside support from the Congress.

Although the Congress extended outside support to the AAP, divisions emerged within. Many party activists protested against the decision and burnt an effigy of Kejriwal outside the Delhi Congress office.

However, Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit denied there was any re-think on propping up an AAP government.

Born in Haryana and an IIT-Kharagpur graduate in mechanical engineering, Kejriwal has refused Z category security and an official bungalow that a chief minister is entitled to.