Kejriwal's party pushes ahead with Indian election plans

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The party of firebrand anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal pushed ahead on Sunday with preparations to contest India's looming general election, just days after he dramatically resigned as Delhi chief minister.

Kejriwal's upstart Aam Aadmi ("common man") party (AAP) announced its first 20 candidates in the election due by May, including those who will stand against the two main political parties.

"This is our first list of 20 clean candidates and we will be putting out more lists to contest from different parts of the country in the days ahead," senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia told a press conference.

The move comes less than 48 hours after Kejriwal resigned as chief minister of Delhi state, along with his cabinet colleagues, when the two main parties combined to thwart his efforts to introduce a new anti-corruption bill.

Kejriwal quit only 49 days after his party took power in the capital, following a stunning breakthrough in the Delhi state election in December that highlighted widespread public anger with the political establishment.

The move leaves Kejriwal, a former anti-graft campaigner, clear to lead his party into battle against the ruling Congress and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The list of AAP candidates includes activists and professionals who quit their jobs including in the law, industry and media sectors to join the new party.

On Friday the BJP and Congress blocked Kejriwal's move to introduce the anti-graft bill, a key promise at the Delhi polls, into the state assembly.

They described it as unconstitutional.

Media reported Sunday that donations to the AAP's election campaign have swelled dramatically since then.

The party surprised many observers by winning 28 seats in Delhi's 70-member assembly in December.

During its brief stint in power, Kejriwal unveiled a series of headline-grabbing initiatives, including a graft hotline aimed at stemming rampant corruption among 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 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 near the national parliament last month, triggering chaos in the city centre, as part of a push to be given greater control over the police.

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