Anti-corruption political party launches in India
NEW DELHI: One of India’s most prominent anti-corruption campaigners launched a new political party on Tuesday, aiming to tap into a rich seam of public anger against the graft-tainted government.
Arvind Kejriwal said the formation of his party would mark a new chapter in the struggle against a “bribe-taking culture” and pledged to field candidates at a general election due in 2014. “Our political party is the first step in the right direction, the common man will soon become the lawmaker,” Kejriwal said, after the launch in New Delhi. The unveiling of the yet-unnamed party was held on the anniversary of the birth of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
“We derive lessons from Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. We are determined to clean up the entire political spectrum. Our candidates will be committed to honesty and transparency and they will fight elections,” Kejriwal added. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been rocked by a string of graft accusations, including revelations that officials pocketed millions of dollars when awarding tenders for telecoms and coal-mining ventures.
Kejriwal, a former civil servant, co-founded a group called India Against Corruption, which caused huge embarrassment for the Congress-led coalition government when another leader Anna Hazare went on hunger strike. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests organised by India Against Corruption. Although the movement has since largely fizzled out, disquiet about levels of corruption was fuelled over the summer by a scandal over the allocation of lucrative mining rights.
An official auditor’s report found in August that private operators who won coal blocks without competition enjoyed “financial gains to the tune of 1.86 trillion rupees ($33.4 billion)” since 2004 - some of which should have gone to the government. The scandal was particularly embarrassing for Singh because he served as coal minister as well as prime minister from 2004-2009. Hazare has parted ways with Kejriwal over his plans to enter politics, which he has described as “full of dirt”.
Kejriwal said that his group would continue to “seek Hazare’s blessings” despite the rift. The new party’s manifesto details its aspirations for “a complete political revolution” as well as pledges to expose corruption at all levels of government and to inspire young people to participate in the political process.
“We are not greedy for power or hungry for money. We want to bring a social, political and economic change to wipe out corruption,” said Kejriwal in a speech in New Delhi. V Narayanasamy, the minister of parliamentary affairs and a senior leader of the ruling Congress party, dismissed Kejriwal’s party as a “political stunt” and accused him of deceiving people by pretending to be a social activist. afp