NEW DELHI // A leading anti-corruption campaigner formally announced the establishment of a political party yesterday, saying it would "derive lessons from Mahatma Gandhi's teachings".
The unnamed group is being led by Arvind Kejriwal, a former bureaucrat who worked alongside the activist Anna Hazare in the India Against Corruption movement.
Until early this year, Mr Kejriwal, 44, along with Mr Hazare, rallied thousands through protests and hunger strikes to press the government to pass legislation, contained in the Lokpal bill, which aimed to deter corruption and protect whisteblowers.
The Congress-led government has been hobbled by accusations of graft and corruption over the tender process for telecoms and coal-mining deals. Yesterday, Mr Kejriwal said he launched the party to challenge the status quo.
"The thinking is to fix the system ... I won't think about win or loss, but fight. I have to answer [to] the next generation," he said in New Delhi yesterday. "I will fight elections. "The people of this country will be a part of electoral politics now. It's not my party but it's for the people of this country."
The launch came on the day India observed the 143rd anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.
"We derive lessons from Mahatma Gandhi's teachings," Mr Kejriwal said. "We are determined to clean up the entire political spectrum."
As part of the party's mandate that was announced yesterday, Mr Kejriwal said elected representatives would not use government housing quarters, or use government-funded security to protect themselves.
Their cars would not carry red lights, which permit politicians to break traffic laws.
Mr Kejriwal is tapping into widespread anger in India against the perception of rampant corruption.
If elected, he said the prices of essential commodities would not be changed without the people's consent.
He also promised to pass the Lokpal bill, which has been stalled in parliament since December last year. He said the bill would be passed within 10 days of his party being voted to power. Mr Kejriwal added that if his version of the anti-corruption bill was passed, he would withdraw his party.
The next general elections are scheduled for 2014 but it remains unclear whether Mr Kejriwal's party will field candidates in state elections due this year in states including Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
"We are the real opposition," Mr Kejriwal said to about 1,000 supporters in New Delhi yesterday.
Last month, Mr Kejriwal parted ways with Mr Hazare after the latter expressed opposition to the formation of a political party.
At the time, Mr Hazare wrote in his blog that he did not support a political party because funding for campaigns would compromise the integrity of candidates.
Mr Hazare has said he prefers "sacred" agitation over politics, "which is full of dirt".
He also banned the new political party from using his name, photographs or slogans to promote itself. Yesterday, Mr Kejriwal's supporters continued wearing the white cotton cap made popular by Mr Hazare.
On Monday, Mr Kejriwal said Mr Hazare had given his blessings to go ahead with his entry into politics.
News of the formation of Mr Kejriwal's party resonated with students at a rally against foreign investment on Monday.
Ravi Knojia, 21, an MBA student from Uttar Pradesh's First Indian School of Business, said: "This government is totally corrupted. I admire Arvind Kejriwal and will vote for him. He is the only politician trying to do something different."
* Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse