Updated: 02/15/2014 00:57 | By Agence France-Presse

Delhi chief minister quits after graft bill blocked

Delhi's firebrand Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced his resignation Friday to protest the blocking of an anti-corruption bill, fewer than 50 days after taking power in the Indian capital.


Delhi chief minister quits after graft bill blocked

Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal waves his resignation letter as he addresses supporters at Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party offices in New Delhi on February 14, 2014

"My cabinet has decided that we are quitting. Here is my resignation letter," Kejriwal told supporters of his fledgling Aam Aadmi ("Common Man") Party in the capital, brandishing a white sheet of paper.

"Straight after this, I am going to the Lieutenant Governor's office to hand in my resignation," he added, as his followers cheered.

The upstart Aam Aadmi party sent shockwaves through India's political establishment late last year when it scored a series of stunning successes during local elections in Delhi. 

But Kejriwal's decision to resign little more than seven weeks after taking power in the city of 17 million throws his party's fortunes into uncertainty.  

Kejriwal's announcement came shortly after local legislators effectively shot down his efforts to bring in anti-corruption legislation -- the key plank of his manifesto in December's state elections.

The Congress party, which had been allied to Aam Aadmi, decided not to back Kejriwal in Friday's vote, claiming the measure was unconstitutional.

In his speech to supporters on Friday, the 45-year-old blamed Congress for his decision to resign, accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's party of reneging on an earlier promise to back the bill.

"Congress had promised us, in writing, that they would support the bill but when we tried to present it before the assembly today both they and the BJP came together to block it," Kejriwal said.

"This is the first time in India's history that both the BJP and Congress have come together ... They have exposed themselves and shown their true face."

- Fresh elections unlikely -

Kejriwal, who had been the head of a minority administration since taking power on December 28, asked Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung in his resignation letter to immediately dissolve the Delhi assembly and organise fresh elections.

"The Council of Ministers met this evening and decided to tender its resignation," said the letter, a copy which was obtained by AFP.

"The Council also recommends dissolution of the Delhi Assembly and immediate conduct of elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly."

Kerjriwal's party won 28 seats in Delhi's 70 member assembly and came to power with the help of the Congress party, which governs at national level.

However, fresh elections in the capital are unlikely and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won 32 seats in the Delhi election, could try and form an alternative administration.

Kejriwal's resignation will leave him free to campaign for his party ahead of national elections which are expected by May.

The BJP is expected to win the national polls, although it will need support from smaller parties to clinch victory.

Although he only formed his party a year ago, its remarkable showing in the Delhi election shocked the country's political establishment.

Congress, which has been badly damaged by a series of corruption scandals at national level, saw its number of seats slashed from 43 to just eight.

Aam Aadmi has said it plans to contest the national elections although analysts say it is unlikely to win much support outside the major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai due to its lack of infrastructure and funding.

The BJP also refused to endorse the anti-corruption bill before the Delhi assembly on procedural grounds.

During his administration's brief time in office, Kejriwal unveiled a series of headline-grabbing initiatives, including a graft hotline aimed at stemming the rampant corruption of police and bureaucrats.

After shunning the usual official car and instead taking the subway to his swearing-in ceremony, Kejriwal then slashed electricity costs and announced free water supplies.

But while his elevation to one of the most important political posts in India was initially widely welcomed as a much-needed shock to the system, the former tax inspector has since come in for criticism over a series of stand-offs with the authorities.

The self-styled "anarchist" staged a sit-in on the pavement close to the national parliament last month, triggering chaos in the city centre, as part of a push to be given greater powers of control over the police.

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