Profile: Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal Arvind Kejriwal's political debut has been described as nothing less than spectacular

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Leading Indian anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal has grabbed the eyeballs in the run-up to the upcoming general election by announcing his decision to take on the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's PM candidate Narendra Modi.

The two are fighting over Varanasi, the ancient, most sacred city for Hindus in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Kejriwal made a spectacular political debut in December. His party won 28 seats in Delhi's state assembly, propelling him to the post of chief minister in the capital.

But he was only to be in office for 49 days, resigning amid a row over an anti-corruption bill.

When Mr Kejriwal first broke off from his mentor, veteran campaigner Anna Hazare, to formally enter politics in 2012, many said he would find the going tough without Mr Hazare's support.

But, he proved his detractors wrong, as the Delhi election results showed - his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the Common Man's Party won 28 seats out of the 70 seats on offer.

His aim now is to replicate on the national stage what his party did in Delhi.

The AAP has nominated more than 400 candidates for the general election and many of them are pitted against top Congress and BJP leaders.

In the run up to the polls, Mr Kejriwal is extensively touring the country, taking out road shows and addressing rallies to canvass support for his party candidates.

Backroom organiser

Mr Kejriwal launched his political party on 2 October 2012, the 143rd birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. He told supporters they would fight against the culture of "bribe-taking" and pledged to contest the election.

Explaining the need for a new party, he said India was "being sold and all parties are guilty".

A former civil servant, Mr Kejriwal won the Ramon Magsaysay award for emergent leadership, widely described as Asia's Nobel Prize, for social work and initiatives to fight corruption in 2006.

Two years ago, he set up a group called India Against Corruption aimed at putting pressure on the government to bring about tough anti-corruption laws.

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare (R) with Arvind Kejriwal, a member of his team during their hunger strike in New Delhi July 2012. Arvind Kejriwal was activist Anna Hazare's close aide during their anti-corruption protest in 2011

Mr Kejriwal, 44, came to the limelight in 2011 as the backroom organiser of the anti-corruption campaign led by Mr Hazare.

While Mr Hazare, 73, was its recognised public face, Mr Kejriwal was a member of "Team Anna", which worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the agitation a success.

As Mr Hazare went on hunger strike in April 2011 to demand stringent anti-corruption laws, in particular a law to create an ombudsman to deal with allegations of corruption, Mr Kejriwal was by his side, making speeches, briefing reporters and formulating strategy.

In August of the same year, when Mr Hazare brought the government to its knees with his 12-day fast, Mr Kejriwal emerged as his top aide, rallying huge crowds, advising the veteran campaigner and participating in negotiations with the government.

Loss of faith

Born in 1968 in the town of Hisar in the northern state of Haryana to middle-class parents, Mr Kejriwal graduated from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur with a degree in mechanical engineering.

After a brief stint working with the private sector Tata group, he joined the Indian civil services in 1992 as a revenue officer.

He took voluntary retirement from his job in 2006 and set up an NGO - Public Cause Research Foundation - to work full time to promote transparency in government and to create awareness about the Right to Information movement.

According to a report in The Caravan magazine, Mr Kejriwal has "no personal story of extraordinary suffering at the hands of corruption".

Aam Aadmi Party activists hold brooms as they shout-slogans during protest against the corrupt political system in Amritsar on February 15, 2014 India has been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals and the Aam Aadmi Party was formed to fight the culture of 'bribe-taking'

"What led him to quit his job as a senior bureaucrat and become an activist wasn't anger or bitterness; it was the loss of his own faith in government after a decade in its service," it says.

In a draft document, Mr Kejriwal outlined some of the objectives of his party, which included devolution of power, fighting corruption, containing inflation and ensuring fair prices for farm products.

He began by making corruption claims against Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

His initial protests attracted small crowds and his opponents said it was unlikely that he would be able to translate the public anger over corruption into votes for his political party.

But the Delhi election results proved his critics wrong with the Aam Aadmi Party showing that it could do serious damage to both of India's main political parties.

During his administration's brief time in office, he unveiled a series of headline-grabbing initiatives, including an anti-corruption hotline to help people deal with demands for bribes by government workers.

In January, he spent two nights in the open as part of a mass sit-in to press the federal government to grant him greater control over the city police.

But the true crunch time came when a row broke out over anti-corruption bill he had pushed for.

The law would have created a Citizens' Ombudsman, or Jan Lokpal, an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

But opposition politicians blocked the bill, arguing it was unconstitutional to introduce legislation that did not have the approval of the federal government.

Mr Kejriwal had threatened to quit if the bill did not go through, and duly did so - announcing his resignation to his supporters outside his party headquarters.

Analysts say that even if Mr Kejriwal and his party are unable to keep their promise to bring about "a complete political revolution" in the next general election, they would at least have the satisfaction of changing the political discourse.

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