New Delhi's Leader Joins Protests In His Own City

IndiaAgence France PresseDelhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sits in protest with fellow minister Manish Sisodia outside Parliament as Delhi Police prevent him from reaching the Home Ministry on January 20, 2014.

New Delhi’s chief minister vowed to escalate his sit-in protest on Tuesday after sleeping overnight on a pavement despite warnings that he is risking the gains of his new anti-corruption party.

Arvind Kejriwal, formerly a grassroots campaigner against corruption, declared himself an “anarchist” on Monday as he began a 10-day demonstration to demand police reforms.

He defied police lines and barricades to reach a place near the home ministry in central New Delhi, a high-security zone of grand sandstone buildings that houses the parliament, various ministries and the presidency building.

“We will continue our protest. How can Home Minister (Sushilkumar) Shinde sleep when so many crimes are happening in Delhi? When women are unsafe in the city? We won’t negotiate,” Kejriwal told reporters.

Kejriwal was sworn in as chief minister of the city of 17 million on December 28 after his new Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party made sensational gains in elections earlier in the month.

His protest is to demand that control of the New Delhi police force, widely viewed as corrupt and inefficient, is transferred to the state government from the national home ministry.

But after enjoying overwhelmingly positive media coverage as he took on India’s two main parties — the ruling Congress and opposition Bharitiya Janata Party — there are signs the honeymoon is over.

“Anarchist CM Plunges Delhi Into Chaos,” read the front-page of The Hindu newspaper, while The Economic Times headlined “Kejriwal Reduces Govt to a Chaotic Street Play.”

The 44-year-old chief minister slept overnight on a pavement under a thick blanket, awakening to rains, strong winds and more chilly weather on Tuesday morning.

Police have barricaded off the area around the protest site, meaning the thousands of supporters that AAP is trying to mobilize in support of the protest will face difficulties reaching him.

If the demonstration continues, it risks disrupting the annual Republic Day parade on Sunday when India’s military might is displayed along the road leading to the presidency building.

Kejriwal’s sit-in caps a difficult week for his party which has said it hopes to surf a national wave of support for his anti-corruption cause by contesting parliamentary elections which are due before May.

Last week, Aam Aadmi politician and Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti was accused of vigilantism after he and his supporters detained four Ugandan women on suspicion they were engaged in prostitution.

“The educated middle class is showing signs of being disillusioned with AAP,” read an editorial in The Times of India.

“Although it isn’t overly fond of the police and would like to see a clean-up, the party’s populist, confrontationist politics – particularly the actions of its ministers – has struck a discordant note,” it added.

Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.

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