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Delhi to get Kejriwal-led AAP government Saturday

New Delhi, Dec 25 : Arvind Kejriwal, who tapped into public anger to take the AAP to the corridors of power, will take oath Saturday as Delhi's seventh chief minister, with his party promising to "completely overhaul" the system.


Activist-turned-unlikely politician Kejriwal, 45, will be sworn in by Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan here along with six cabinet ministers at a function expected to draw thousands of supporters.

The proposed ministers are former journalists Manish Sisodia, 41, and Rakhi Birla, 26, former lawyers Saurabh Bharadwaj, 34, and Somnath Bharti, 39, architect Satyendra Jain, 49, and businessman Girish Soni, 49.

A woman, Birla will be one of the youngest ministers in India.

It will be a minority government -- the AAP won only 28 seats in the 70-member assembly -- and will depend on the legislative backing of the eight legislators of the Congress, which was voted out after 15 years.

The main opposition will come from the 31-member strong Bharatiya Janata Party, which refused to form a government.

Speaking outside his home at Kaushambi, an Uttar Pradesh township neighbouring Delhi, Kejriwal pledged to unveil a Jan Lokpal bill within 15 days of taking office to battle corruption.

Kejriwal, who won the Magsaysay award in 2006 for "emergent leadership" and has a history of social activism, admitted there would be many hurdles but vowed to overcome them all.

The AAP has invited Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and former police officer Kiran Bedi for the swearing in.

The Ramlila Maidan was where Hazare fasted for 12 days in 2011 for a Jan Lokpal bill with Kejriwal as one of his aides. Kejriwal, who formed the AAP in November last year, has since had a fallout with Hazare and Bedi.

Somnath Bharti, who is set to become a minister, told IANS that the AAP government will "completely overhaul" the system and changes will be visible within 60 days.

Slashing power tariff by half -- one of the key promises made by the AAP -- will remain on top of the agenda, he said.

"We will completely overhaul the system, and changes will be visible within two months of our coming to power," he said. "Our first priority is to reduce the power tariff. If needed, we will give subsidy."

"Every official will be closely watched," he added. "We will identify the corrupt officers in every department and remove them from their posts. The honest officials will be encouraged and protected."

Kejriwal is expected to spend the next three days strategising how to implement the AAP's election manifesto, with possible meetings with Delhi government officials as well as party colleagues.

Also Wednesday, the Congress scotched speculation that it was having second thoughts on propping up the AAP, removing what looked like the last of the hurdles vis-a-vis government formation.

"There will be no rethinking on the issue-based support the Congress has given to AAP," said spokesman Sandeep Dikshit, an MP and son of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Earlier, Kejriwal denied there was any rift within the AAP.

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 ministry.

This triggered speculation that he was upset and may revolt.

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

Binny, who defeated Delhi Health Minister A.K. Walia, also said he was not upset.

Born in Haryana and now residing at Kaushambi adjoining Delhi, Kejriwal, an IIT graduate in mechanical engineering, has refused police security and also an official bungalow allotted to the chief minister.

--IANS (Posted on 25-12-2013)

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