Despite bombing in a by-election in Delhi this week, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today told NDTV that the people of Delhi are happy with his government. Mr Kejriwal insisted that his Aam Aadmi Party or AAP had foreseen its loss in the election for an assembly seat, but was "unable to share its message effectively."
Yesterday, AAP was such a poor third in the by-election that its candidate lost his deposit. The BJP won the seat, the Congress was runner-up. AAP's result was used by both parties to predict a crash-and-burn outcome for Mr Kejriwal in the municipal elections in the capital scheduled for the 23rd. "This is not a trailer," said Mr Kejriwal, referring to the by-election and claiming that AAP was punished because people were upset that the legislator in the constituency that voted, Rajouri Garden, had been moved to contest the recent election in Punjab.
The local elections on the 23rd will measure his popularity mid-way through his term. In 2015, AAP, a political novice, pulled off a win of startling proportion, losing just three seats in Delhi. Of late, the party has been bruised by its inability to win Punjab, where Mr Kejriwal led an extensive campaign, and by a series of indictments for allegedly going rogue on basic guidelines and processes required of the government. Mr Kejriwal has pointed out that the verdicts against him have been delivered by committees created by the centre, which he has long accused of plotting to destabilize him.
In recent days, AAP has been ordered to reimburse the Delhi government 97 crores - the amount spent on ads that allegedly promoted Mr Kejriwal and his party in violation of Supreme Court rules. It has been asked to return a bungalow that it was assigned as a party office. The government has been asked to explain why it tried to pay a 3-crore bill for Ram Jethamalani, one of the country's most famous lawyers, hired to represent Mr Kejriwal in a defamation case filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. "I am fighting this case as Chief Minister...the government has every right to hire the best lawyer," he said today, when asked why government lawyers were not tasked with his case.
Through these scandals, Mr Kejriwal has kept up a campaign attacking the Election Commission for allowing voting machines to be rigged in Punjab, the only explanation, he says, for his defeat there. "The Commission is pulling out all stops to help the BJP win," he repeated today. "I am an engineer from IIT... I can tell you 10 ways in which EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) can be tampered," he said, challenging the Commission which has said that voting machines cannot be gamed, a premise it hopes to prove through a 10-day open-to-the-public hackathon next month in Delhi.