New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal's party that was launched nearly two months ago amid much hype finally has a name. Aam Aadmi Party, which means the party for the common man who Mr Kejriwal claims to represent, will fight elections, said the activist-turned-politician.
"Aam aadmi (common man) will now contest elections, aam aadmi will vote and aam aadmi sit in Parliament. This party will change the way politics and political parties function in the country...Our party will challenge existing parties...Our vision is to bring Swaraj (self-rule) in this country," said Mr Kejriwal at a press conference where he formally declared the name of the party and shared details of its constitution as also plans for the future.
The christening of his new party was done earlier in the day in the presence of 300 members at its first formal meeting that took place behind closed doors at the Constitution Club, in the heart of the national capital. A "youth rally" of the party from Rajghat to Shaheed Park that was to take place on Sunday has now been cancelled following denial of permission from the Delhi Police.
The naming of Mr Kejriwal's party immediately elicited a response from the Congress which, some years ago, successfully rode into power using the aam aadmi plank. "The Aam Aadmi (common man) is synonymous with the Congress since 1885 when the party came into existence...Therefore, nobody can either hijack or skyjack or bicycle-jack the intrinsic relationship between the Congress and the people of this country," said party leader and Union Minister Manish Tewari. But Mr Kejriwal was quick to retort, saying the Congress had hijacked the word earlier but they could not hijack the common man.
The party's launch today is significant in that several states gear up for the elections ahead of the final battle in 2014. His party is expected to fight the Assembly elections in Delhi which is due towards the end of next year.
At today's meeting, a national council of the Aam Aadmi party was set up and the party constitution was formally adopted. The council next elected 23 members for a 30-member national executive which will be the party's highest decision-making body. Mr Kejriwal said the remaining seats would be filled soon.
Significantly, the party will not have a President, Vice President or General Secretary, but will only have a national convenor who will be elected by the national executive. The reason, Mr Kejriwal said, is the aam aadmi again, who forms the core of his party. "Will ensure there is no family rule in my party," said the rookie politician, in a veiled dig at the Congress. The idea, it was decided at the meeting today, was to do away with a "high command style of functioning" and "hierarchical structures".
Mr Kejriwal also said that the Vision Document of the party that was adopted at the meeting will focus on bringing self-rule (swaraj) in the country. The party will also give prominence to the youth and women of the country, with Mr Kejriwal saying that he was committed to providing at least 33 percent of seats to women for contesting elections. Among the other prominent features that the party will have is the Right to Recall as also an internal Lokpal (ombudsman) at the Centre and Lokayuktas at every state and district. Mr Kejriwal, along with his mentor Anna Hazare with whom he parted ways recently over taking the political plunge, had championed the cause for the Lokpal Bill all of last year and this year.
In stark contrast to the low-profile and quite proceedings today, a big launch, for the Aam Aadmi Party has been scheduled for Monday at the Jantar Mantar, the venue of several protests led by Mr Kejriwal's and that of his mentor Anna Hazare's India Against Corruption's (IAC). Mr Kejriwal's today said that all those who turn up at Jantar Mantar on Monday would be treated as founding members of the party.
The date of the party's launch - November 26 - is symbolic. The Constitution of India was adopted on this day in 1949. Mr Kejriwal's party will also draw heavily from the Constitution.
As far as the party symbol is concerned, a book that would signify the Constitution as also mango - symbolising the aam aadmi - are among the options being considered.
While most parties welcomed the newest member of the political fraternity, they also had a word of caution for Mr Kejriwal and his supporters. "We welcome it...So far they've levelled accusations against others...Let them now face the electoral test and the people...Let's see what revolution they can bring about," BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Mr Kejriwal's decision to enter politics had led to a parting of ways with his mentor, Anna Hazare. The activist-turned-politician had earlier said that his group will not use 'India Against Corruption' (IAC) as its name after the formation of his political party on November 26. Anna had laid claim to that name.
Mr Kejriwal's decision to launch what he describes as "a political alternative" was announced in August, when the India Against Corruption movement that Anna and he had headlined appeared to be dissipating in public. Mr Kejriwal was at the time on a six-day fast in Delhi. The crowds at his base camp were thin. The government ignored him, refusing to urge him to eat, or to talk about when the Lokpal bill - named for the new anti-graft body it births- would be cleared as law. It has passed in the Lok Sabha, but has been stalled in the Rajya Sabha.