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India anti-corruption party to form government in Delhi state

A new political party that wound up second in recent elections in the key Indian state of Delhi will lead the next local government. It follows the winner's failure to stike a deal for an assembly majority.

Anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), meaning Common Man Party, came second in the December 4 elections, winning 28 seats.

The best-placed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 32 seats but failed to score a majority in the 70-member state assembly, and did not strike any coalition deals in the meantime.

AAP will govern with cooperation from the ousted Indian National Congress party, but the parties will not form an official coalition. The Congress party won just eight seats in Delhi, after ruling the state for years. It heads the federal ruling alliance, while BJP is the national opposition, although it holds power in several Indian states.

The breakthrough result for Aam Aadmi comes months before a general election. The new Delhi state government will be headed by former tax official Arvind Kejriwal (pictured above), who takes over from the National Congress' former chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

"I will request the lieutenant governor to allow us to take the oath [of office]," Kejriwal told supporters on Monday. He had campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and populist promises, including reducing power tariffs by 50 per cent. The party has also promised an inquiry into alleged financial irregularities during the 2010 Commonwealth Games - a pledge that could impact Congress leaders.

Kerjiiwal, who founded Aam Aadmi a year ago, is understood to have been wary about accepting the support of either the Congress party of BJP to form government, considering that the swing towards AAP was partly attributed to voter dissatisfaction with other parties' records on handling corruption.

But another AAP leader, Manish Sisodia, said people in 257 out of 280 public meetings and almost three-quarters of respondants in an online poll had urged the party to accept the cooperation offer.

Analysts say AAP has no chance of winning in 2014 general elections because of a lack of finance and infrastructure, but Kejriwal has indicated he wants to field candidates across the country.

jr/msh (dpa, AFP)