Arvind Kejriwal: The man, the mission, the life

Arvind Kejriwal is taking oath of chief minister’s office today. Here is a peek into his life.

Arvind Kejriwal is taking oath as Delhi chief minister today at Ramlila ground. For the first time, a chief minister, that too youngest in the history of Delhi, is taking public oath. We have known tit-bits about him through the activism he did during the anti-corruption movement. And we have seen him changing the face of Indian politics by forming a party based on idealism and winning 28 seats out of 70 in its debut year. Here is all you would like to know about him:

Born: August 16, 1968 in Hisar, Haryana

Father: Gobind Ram Kejriwal

Mother: Gita Devi

Siblings: two, one brother and a sister

Marriage: Kejriwal married Sunita, IRS officer, his batch-mate from civil services training days in Mussoorie

Education: Joined IIT, Kharagpur, for degree in mechanical engineering in 1985

Experience: Worked at Tata Steel, Jamshedpur in 1989. Quit job in 1992 and spent time in Kolkata and north-east India at the Ramkrishna Mission, joined Mother Teresa and worked wither for a while. Joined Indian Revenue Service in 1995 and worked till 2000.

Took a two-year sabbatical on condition that upon resuming his work he wouldn’t resign for at least three years. Resumed his work as IRS in 2003 but took voluntary retirement after 18 months by reimbursing the government.

He initiated movement Parivartan. Focused on assisting citizens in navigating income tax, electricity and food ration matters. Won Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for helping enact RTI Act. Donated Magsaysay award money as corpus to find NGO Public Cause Research Foundation.

Took national stage with Anna Hazare’s fast to pass the Jan Lokpal bill in 2011. Launched Aam Aadmi Party in 2012. Defeated three-term CM Sheila Dixit in Delhi assembly election in December 2013 by 25,864 votes.

Personal life: Kejriwal is a vegetarian and keen practitioner of Vipassana for many years. He owns a car but has been known to take the metro frequently to work. He reads all the documents personally and makes changes by revising and re-revising them till they are perfect.

His wife Sunita, also an IRS officer, is the family’s backbone. Down-to-earth Sunita said she treats her husband’s job, as any other. She told a magazine last year, “I just want him and the kids to remain least affected by all this.”

Party colleagues say Kejriwal sleeps barely four hours a day. The night before Anna Hazare’s Ramlila Maidan fast, he and other senior leaders spent the night at Kiran Bedi’s house. Colleagues say Kejriwal coughed through the night. The next morning, he nibbled at a plain toast, drank a cup of milk and was off to the venue in a flash.

In the revenue service, Kejriwal was Spartan, no-nonsense and absolutely upright. He refused to have a peon, cleaned his own desk, emptied his dustbin and studiously avoided office get-togethers. Those who saw him then recall how he’d be seen at a tea stall near his office or else in his office room, withdrawn, doing his work. A man who is apparently averse to ceremony, he does not celebrate his birthday and those of his children.

On the first day of his job in 1995 in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), Kejriwal, then 27-year-old was advised to make money at the start of his career and then “pretend to be an honest officer for the rest of his life”. A shocked Kejriwal shaped his career against the advice and now he is about to be the chief minister of Delhi from a simple bureaucrat.

Kejriwal was at an RTI event in 2006 the day he got to know he had been awarded the year’s Magsaysay Award. He had spoken nonstop, engaging students and activists to file RTI applications when his phone rang. He took the call and later informed a colleague he had received the prestigious award. Moments later, he was back at what he was doing, normal as ever.

His close friends from college days helped him raise loans to reimburse the government when he took his voluntary retirement from the civil service after he had taken two years’ paid study leave. In fact, it’s his friends reportedly who pitched in with Rs 25,000 every month for a living so he could continue his fight against corruption. Kejriwal said the remaining expenses were borne by wife Sunita, an additional commissioner in the income-tax department.

On breaking his two-week fast in April 2013, Kejriwal talked of what gave him the strength. “I’m diabetic. When I started my fast doctors said I wouldn’t live beyond two days but I survived and fasted for 15. If you walk on the path of truth all the powers in the universe help you”.

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