Delhi’s ‘Anarchist’ Chief Minister Quits Ahead of India Vote

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Aadmi Party took power in India’s national capital less than two months ago, quit after lawmakers rejected his move to present an anti-corruption bill.

The Delhi government decided to resign after the chief minister’s attempt to present the Jan Lokpal bill in the state assembly was defeated by members of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, Kejriwal told his party members last night. He said he would seek immediate elections.

The anti-graft activist’s term as chief minister was highlighted by public sit-ins, conflict with electricity and water agencies and a power struggle with the federal government. Kejriwal may be betting his move to resign will help secure more support in the upcoming federal elections by highlighting the corruption issue.

“This is the best Kejriwal could have done at this moment, given that his party is seriously considering parliament elections,” said Sanjay Kumar, a New Delhi-based analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “They have got a good issue at this moment to go to the people, and maybe people would be more attracted toward his views compared to any other party.”

Nationwide Push

Kejriwal, who has described himself as an “anarchist,” is expanding his crusade nationwide with his party contesting more than 350 of the country’s 543 elected seats in the lower house of parliament. The elections are due by May.

“The party will now take its anti-corruption campaign all over the nation,” Sanjay Singh, a senior Aam Aadmi Party leader, told reporters in New Delhi today. “We will tell the nation how the Congress and the BJP are similar in corruption and not the right alternative in fighting corruption.”

Kejriwal, 45, earlier this week said he would file a police complaint against Reliance Industries Ltd., its billionaire Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Oil Minister Veerappa Moily for creating an artificial shortage of gas in the country.

Last month, Kejriwal started a protest after police refused to take action when a member of his administration conducted a late-night raid of apartments on Jan. 15 where residents had reported drug trafficking. He has been demanding India’s central government transfer control of the New Delhi police to the state government.

Police cordoned off about 2.5 square kilometers (1 square mile) of central New Delhi as Kejriwal and hundreds of supporters spent a night outside the rail ministry in protest.

Biggest Promise

“Our biggest promise was to get the Jan Lokpal bill passed,” Kejriwal said as hundreds of his supporters cheered and waved broomsticks, their party’s symbol. “But the Congress and the BJP got together and didn’t allow us to present it.”

Aam Aadmi, which means common man in Hindi, won 28 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats in elections in December, compared with 31 for the BJP and eight for Congress. It formed the government on Dec. 28 with the backing of Congress lawmakers after the BJP declined to govern without a majority.

The BJP may now be invited to form the government and, if the party declines, state elections could be called, Kumar said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kartikay Mehrotra in New Delhi at kmehrotra2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

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