Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal (Photo Credit: PTI)
Delhi's historic Ramlila Maidan has been decked up for the swearing-in ceremony of Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal as chief minister for the third successive term on Sunday. Big banners bearing messages like ‘Dhanyawad Dilli’ along with Kejriwal’s image were put up in and around the venue. While the event is “open to public”, there won’t be usual gathering of political heavyweights.
Around 50 people from different walks of life who are ‘Delhi ke Nirmata’ and contributed to the development of the city during the last five years will share the stage with Kejriwal during his ceremony as special guests, AAP leader Manish Sisodia said.
Those invited include international tennis player Sumit Nagal, Delhi government school student and beneficiary of Jai Bhim Mukhyamantri Pratibha Vikas Yojana who cracked IIT Vijay Kumar, mohalla clinic doctor Alka, bike ambulance service officer Yudhishtir Rathee, night shelter caretaker Shabina Naaz, bus marshall Arun Kumar, Signature bridge architect Ratan Jamshed Batliboi and metro pilot Nidhi Gupta.
From sprucing up the sprawling ground to extensive traffic and security arrangements, workers and authorities were busy making final preparations on Saturday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to the ceremony, besides BJP MPs and MLAs from Delhi. The AAP had said no chief minister or political leader from other states will be part of the event as it will be a “Delhi-specific” ceremony.
On the eve of swearing-in ceremony, Kejriwal called a dinner meeting of his ministers-designate to discuss the roadmap for Delhi’s development, especially the initiatives that need to be prioritised in the coming three months, according to party functionaries.
All the six ministers in the previous government—Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain, Gopal Rai, Kailash Gehlot, Imran Hussain and Rajendra Gautam—have been retained.
With AAP scripting its third consecutive win in the Delhi assembly elections, excitement was palpable among party workers and senior leaders alike, all of whom were expecting a huge crowd at the event.
Workers were on Saturday giving a fresh paint job to the white ceremonial platform at the Ramlila Maidan, and the area around it was being decked up with potted plants and flowers.
A large contingent of security personnel was given briefing by Delhi Police authorities at the Maidan.
Officials said 2,000 to 3,000 security personnel from the Delhi Police and paramilitary forces, including the CRPF, were being deployed for the ceremony which is scheduled to begin at 10 am. Drones were likely to be used for aerial surveillance.
Traffic regulations will be in place in the area from 8 am to 2 pm, they said. Senior AAP leader Gopal Rai said as this is an event open for public. “We are expecting a good number of people to turn up tomorrow,” he said.
“Baby Mufflerman” Aavyan Tomar, who stole the hearts when he dressed up as the AAP convenor on counting day, is a ‘special invitee’ at the ceremony.
The AAP supremo had on Thursday extended invitation to Delhiites to attend his oath-taking ceremony to “bless their son”. Advertisements were also issued in leading dailies.
“Delhiites, your son is going to take oath of Delhi chief minister for the third time. You must come to bless your son. Sunday, February 16, 10 am, Ramlila Maidan,” Kejriwal, 51, had tweeted in Hindi.
There was some controversy as newly-elected BJP MLA Vijender Gupta wrote to Kejriwal objecting to a circular that made it “compulsory” for government school teachers to attend his oath-taking ceremony as Delhi chief minister.
Gupta, leader of Opposition in the previous assembly, called the Friday’s circular “dictatorial” and said it had shattered his belief that Kejriwal’s focus after coming back to power would be on governance and strengthening democratic ethos.
“By virtue of the order, 15,000 teachers and officials will have to attend the oath ceremony,” Gupta, who has been re-elected from Rohini constituency, wrote in his letter to Kejriwal. The BJP MLA, however, said he would attend Kejriwal’s oath-taking ceremony.
Sisodia rejected the BJP’s allegations, saying the teachers have been invited not ordered. He said that the BJP does not know how to respect teachers and that is the reason they make such statements
“Today a dream comes true. This dream is not just ours but of the people of Delhi and the real makers of Delhi - ‘Delhi ke Nirmata’.
“They will represent various sectors and be with the Chief Minister as special guests on a specially designated stage. Collaborating with them, the government will pursue development works and schemes in Delhi effectively in the next five years also. We had good five years. Next five years will be even better,” Sisodia added.
He said Kejriwal’s victory is the victory of those who dream to make Delhi a world class city and work tirelessly for it.
In a near-repeat performance of 2015, the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, which was floated in November 2012, retained power with a scintillating win in the just-concluded Delhi Assembly polls, trouncing its main rival BJP and completely decimating the Congress in a keenly-watched battle that took place in the midst of anti-CAA protests.
As the AAP bagged 62 out of the 70 seats, leaders cutting across party lines, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi (Congress), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Naveen Patnaik (BJD) and MK Stalin (DMK) had congratulated Kejriwal for the victory.
For bureaucrat-turned-politician who will assume the post of Delhi chief minister for the third time, the Ramlila Maidan holds special significance as it had served as his battleground during the Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption movement.
The Delhi government, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which owns the Maidan, and Public Works Department are working in tandem to make the venue ready for the occasion.
“We had levelled the ground during the PM’s event that took place recently. So, other ground work is being done. The PWD is making necessary arrangements too,” a senior NDMC official said.
Toilet blocks are in place in and around the Maidan. Arrangements for other sanitation facilities like mobile toilets, are being done, he said.
The ground, where socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan had addressed a massive gathering during the ‘Total Revolution’ movement in 1970s, has a capacity of about 1.25 lakh people. Sources said that besides seating arrangements, there will be space for people to stand.
In 2015 too, Kejriwal’s oath-taking ceremony had taken place at Ramlila Maidan. It was held on February 14, coinciding with the Valentine’s Day.
In 2013 after his party’s first poll victory, the swearing-in ceremony was held at the same venue. Over a lakh people had attended the event on December 29 that year.
The AAP had in 2015 stunned its opponents with a massive win in the assembly polls, clinching 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly.
Kejriwal repeated his triumph in the high-profile New Delhi constituency, defeating Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sunil Kumar Yadav by a margin of 21,697 votes.