An anti-corruption activist and now a politician too, Arvind Kejriwal announced the launch of his political party amidst bhajans, clapping in the presence of cheering India Against Corruption volunteers and a crowd of around 2,000 in the New Delhi on Tuesday afternoon.
"This is now an andolan which will also fight elections," said Manish Sisodia, his key associate, who was also a member of Team Anna.
A rough draft of the guidelines of the party was also released. A final document entailing the vision of the party and name for the party would be announced on November 26.
At the party's launch, the traces of Anna Hazare's influence could not go unnoticed. The 'Mein hoon Anna' caps were replaced. The crowds donned white caps that read 'Mein hun aam admi, mujhe chahiye Jan Lokpal'. (I am the common man, I want Jan Lokpal."
Even the posters had changed their faces. Anna Hazare used to feature prominently alongside Mahatma Gandhi in posters seen in earlier meetings. But on Tuesday, the poster of Lal Bhahadur Shastri and Mahatma Gandhi were put near the main dais.
The crowds were all charged up at the venue. They sang bhajans and shouted slogans. India Against Corruption had invited people from different states, most of whom had lead an anti-corruption agitation.
A representative from the All India Muslim Law board, another from the Rastriya Seva Dal in Maharashtra to representatives from International Democratic Party in Jammu, were seen at the venue and all pledged their support to the political party.
Commentator and senior analyst Yogendra Yadav invited most of them to address the gathering. He later said, "We are now forming a national party, and we have to learn all national languages."
Kumar Vishwas, a poet and a close member of the erstwhile Team Anna, also decided not to be a part of the political party. He addressed the audience amidst speculations of a rift from Kejriwal and said, "If something happens, you still need people to sit at Jantar Mantar."
For many, the party's launch was an emotional moment. A human resource manager, Niharika has admittedly been a part of the agitation for Jan Lokpal since its early days. Her father had suffered a cardiac arrest during one such agitation last year in August at Jantar Mantar.
Lt Col A K Mishra has now fully recovered, but the family keenly follows the anti-corruption movement, now being lead by Arvind Kejriwal. "Our entire family, my father, and my grandfather have been closely following the movement," she said.
The volunteers of India Against Corruption were visibly upbeat at the launch. Hiteshi, a volunteer, is confident that they would be able to muster support when the team fields its candidates in the elections.
She explains that a group of 1500 college-going volunteers visit slum areas regularly and try to educate people about rations cards, electricity bills, voter identification cards and so on.
"We work in slum areas almost daily. We then go to our colleges and talk about the agitation to our peers. By evening, we also put the posters up in different parts of the city," she said. There are many working volunteers too, she adds.
The party has set a 13-point agenda. This includes -- the demand to set up Jan Lokpal Bill and Jan Lokayukta in states, reforms in election and introduction of right to reject and right to recall, decision-making powers to panchayat and wards, and reforms in the police force, and judicial system.
The agenda further states that the first right to land, water and natural resources should belong to the habitants; it argues for free and quality education for children, and empowering the local administration (at the panchayat or the ward level) so that it takes administrative decisions.
The draft of the constitution of the party strongly argues that policy decisions about villages should be taken at the village. It also argues that the women reservation bill, guaranteeing 33 per cent reservation of women in the Parliament should be adopted, and the Wakf board should be handed over to the local community.
Image: Social actvist Arvind Kejriwal