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Anti-corruption activist leaves the elite ‘rattled’

(AFP) / 29 October 2012

NEW DELHI - Arvind Kejriwal chuckles as he considers how his all-out assault on corruption has united India’s political elite in outrage.

“All politicians are part of a ruling fraternity, there is no opposition in this country,” says Kejriwal in an interview with AFP. “They are all hand in glove, they share a nice, cosy relationship behind the curtains.”

Campaigns against graft are hardly new in India — a country where corruption is a part of daily life for everything from getting a driving licence to a house. But with his targets ranging from government ministers to senior opposition figures and even the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, Kejriwal has managed to alarm a cross-section of the ruling class as the media laps up his accusations.

And while Kejriwal argues it is up to the people to decide whether to join him in purging the establishment, criticism is growing at his tactics as observers worry about erosion of trust in politicians in the world’s biggest democracy.

Kejriwal first came to national prominence last year, serving as the chief lieutenant to veteran anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare during the latter’s 12-day hunger strike.

But while Hazare has since stepped away from the national headlines, his protege has soldiered on and now plans to lead his own political party in a general election due to be held in 2014.

Speaking at his headquarters on the outskirts of New Delhi, Kejriwal said  corruption had eaten into the very core of the establishment and that he wanted to challenge the sense of helplessness among voters.

“We have started a process of cleansing the political system. Let the people decide whether they want to be a part of this new system,” said the 44-year-old who hails from the northern state of Haryana, the capital’s neighbour.

“There was a huge amount of cynicism. Earlier when I met people they said they had lost all hope, that nothing would ever change in this country. But now they say our movement has given them fresh hope.”

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