Why is India's anti-corruption party creating waves?

Arvind Kejriwal Image copyright AP
Image caption Arvind Kejriwal is India's leading anti-corruption campaigner

An upstart political party led by a leading anti-corruption crusader is creating waves in India by posing a threat to the country's mainstream parties, the Congress and the BJP. As the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder reports from Delhi, it now appears to have caught the public's imagination.

The Aam Admi or (Common Man's Party) is led by Arvind Kejriwal - a former civil servant,

Contesting local elections in Delhi, the party was born out of a strong anti-corruption movement that swept India two years ago.

"I am Arvind Kejriwal… make sure you vote for the broom."

It's a simple message that plays out on Delhi's radio stations every day - part of a surprisingly effective pitch that forms the basis of the campaign of India's newest political party, only a year old.

The Aam Admi (Common Man's) Party is fast emerging as a critical player in next month's Delhi state elections.

Pre-election surveys suggest that it could upset the calculations of the major contenders, the governing Congress Party and India's main opposition BJP, which see Delhi as critical to its ambitions of winning next year's national elections.

"We are not taking on the Congress and the BJP," Mr Kejriwal tells me as I catch up with him in the middle of his campaign.

"It's the ordinary people who are taking them on. They're fed up with both parties and now they finally have a choice, an honest party to vote for."

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Media captionThe Aam Admi, or Common Man's Party, was born out of an anti-corruption movement in 2011

'Delivered so little'

The party's campaign runs on a shoestring budget. A cavalcade of tuk-tuks and scooters follow Mr Kejriwal's open jeep as it drives through some of Delhi's poorest neighbourhoods.

Party workers emulate their leader and wear white caps with the words "I am a common person," emblazoned on the side.

Others hold up the party symbol - a broom, as residents gather by the side of the road.

"We've seen so many politicians who've promised so much and delivered so little," says one man.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Kejriwal's supporters brandish brooms at public meetings

"I'm willing to give him [Arvind Kejriwal] a chance."

The Aam Admi Party headquarters operates out of a modest, ramshackle building in the heart of the capital.

Inside, volunteers are hard at work, raising funds, drawing up campaign strategies and deploying the party's meagre resources.

These are not regular, professional politicians.

Lawyers, students, journalists and housewives form its base - middle class Indians disillusioned with the country's politicians, stirred into action by the mass anti-corruption protests two years ago.

Those protests were led by Mr Kejriwal and his one-time mentor, Anna Hazare.

Supporters come from all over India and even from overseas.

"What they're doing here is truly inspirational," says Amit Agarwal, a banker from Hong Kong who has taken a leave of absence to join the campaign.

Mr Agarwal is a major donor and helped raise some $200,000 (£120,000) from other expatriate Indians in Hong Kong.

The party publishes the names of all its donors, as part of its attempt at transparency.


"There are many Indians here who want to donate funds but are afraid of being hounded by the authorities," says Mr Agarwal.

"We [overseas Indians] do not have that problem."

Others believe that it is the start of a massive change in Indian politics.

"It's the early Facebook or Google of Indian democracy," says Rajan Makhija, a management consultant from Singapore.

"I wouldn't miss it for anything."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Experts say Mr Kejriwal (middle) party could end up redefining India's politics

But the party is not short of controversy.

Anna Hazare has distanced himself from it, apparently upset with the decision to get into electoral politics.

And there are questions over the party's ability to transfer its idealism into sound policies.

"They are political greenhorns, with no administrative or political experience," says political commentator Neerja Chowdhury.

"It'll be a challenge for them to deliver."

As voting day nears, all eyes are on the new challenger.

If the Aam Admi Party does well, winning a number of seats, there is little doubt that it will have made a statement and will also serve as a role model.

"Young people, idealistic people will think that if Arvind Kejriwal can do this much in a year, so can we," says Ms Chowdhury.

And with national elections due next year, that could potentially shift the goalposts of Indian politics.

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