Arvind Kejriwal: The roots of India's new leader
- 28 December 2013
- From the section India
Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of a new anti-corruption party in India, will be sworn in as the chief minister of Delhi on Saturday. BBC Hindi's Zubair Ahmed visited his ancestral village to trace the beginnings of an unconventional politician who has made a spectacular debut.
Thousands of people are expected to attend the swearing in ceremony at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan (grounds) in the capital.
Many in the audience will be from his tiny, impoverished ancestral village of Kheda in the northern state of Haryana, some 200km (124 miles) from Delhi.
Mr Kejriwal was born in the neighbouring village of Siwani, where his trader father had migrated to since it boasted a wholesale market. He studied in the eastern city of Calcutta and joined a top engineering school in West Bengal state's Kharagpur town.
But his family is better known in Kheda. The Kejriwal home is derelict and needs a makeover. But it stands out as the largest building in the village.
Villagers say Mr Kejriwal's ancestors have built a school, tube well, temple, community hall and a public rest house in Kheda - much "more than what the government has done here".
"We are forever grateful and proud of how much they have done for us over the years," says village elder Ram Chand Sharma.
Most of the 2,000-odd residents of Kheda have actually never met Mr Kejriwal: he has no friends here and the relatives have few memories of his growing up years. He occasionally visited the village during festivals and weddings.
Yet, they are full of praise for the 44-year-old man who has become the most talked about leader in the country.
A former civil servant, Mr Kejriwal was awarded 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.
The rest, as the villagers say, is history.
Tara Chand Sharma, a village elder, says with an exaggerated gesture of his hands: "My chest swells with pride that my grandson will be the chief minister of Delhi." He calls Mr Kejriwal his grandson since he knew his grandfather.
"The boy is dead honest. We need people like him as leaders."
Sanjay Kumar, another neighbour, is convinced Mr Kejriwal's "clean image" was the legacy of his "generous but honest family".
Mr Kejriwal's uncle Girdhari Lal and a few other elders in the family clearly remember him as being studious.
"He never messed with anyone in school. On a few occasions we saw him, we found him glued to his text books. He was always reading," says Mr Lal.
Mr Kejriwal and his party's crusade against corruption has impressed villagers here, who have been queuing up to join his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or Common Man's Party.
Daljit Sharma, a former village headman and Congress worker, has now joined Mr Kejriwal's party.
"We are just awaiting his orders. People are joining him in droves. He has changed the way we do politics in our country," Mr Sharma says.
His sentiments were echoed by another villager, Sanjiv Kumar: "The first change he has brought about is refusing to take government security [as the chief minister] and making direct contacts with ordinary people.
"These are powerful acts and they have left deep impressions on our minds."