CM Kejriwal's 'Close Coterie' Gets A Makeover: Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj To Join Delhi Cabinet

Swarajya Staff

Mar 02, 2023, 10:28 AM | Updated 10:28 AM IST

Atishi Marlena with Manish Sisodia (pic via Twitter)
Atishi Marlena with Manish Sisodia (pic via Twitter)

With Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain in jail and out of the government, CM Arvind Kejriwal has sent two news names to be inducted in the Delhi government.

MLA from Kalkaji, Atishi Marlena and MLA from Greater Kailash, Saurabh Bhardwaj are likely to be inducted in the Kejriwal cabinet. While this is the first time for Atishi as an elected representative, for Bhardwaj, it is not only his second time as an MLA but also as a minister.

Bhardwaj gained notoriety in 2017 when he claimed to be able to tamper an EVM in five steps using a "secret code," which the party attempted to prove through an EVM Hackathon.

During a recent interview in which he defended Sisodia against allegations of destroying digital evidence, Bhardwaj referred to the CBI as "idiots" and questioned who doesn't change their phone. The CBI alleges that Sisodia and his associates had used and destroyed devices worth Rs 1.38 crore.

Atishi, an Oxford graduate, and a Rhode scholar joined electoral politics in 2019, even though she was part of the party since its inception.

She had met Prashant Bhushan, while she was working in the NGO sector and became one of the early faces of the AAP.

In 2015, when Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were forcefully expelled from the party, Atishi sided with the Kejriwal camp.

She was inducted in the government as a media advisor to Manish Sisodia from July 2015 to April 17, 2018. However, her appointment as an advisor, along with 8 other AAP members, were cancelled on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2018, for being unconstitutional.

It is likely that Atishi will be given the responsibility of the state's education ministry in the current shake-up. She is credited with being the brains behind many of the AAP's educational reforms, such as the introduction of the Happiness Curriculum, which the party claims has made Delhi's education system "world-class."

However, some may question whether Atishi's ideological roots make her the best candidate to influence impressionable minds. Her parents, former Delhi University professors Vijay Singh and Tripta Wahi, were signatories of a mercy plea to the President of India against the death penalty for Afzal Guru, the mastermind behind the 2001 Parliament attack.

Her middle name, "Marlena," was given to her by her parents, who have been deeply influenced by Marxist and Leninist ideology. When she enetered the electoral fray, she dropped her middle name and began identifying herself as 'Rajputni'.

Recently, Atishi was in news for the violent scenes in the MCD. She was caught on camera instigating AAP lady councilors, following which they began physically attacking the opposition members without any provocation.

Despite the two young leaders being in the thick of AAP's politics, they have been elevated only now when two of AAP's top ministers went to jail. Both the ministers were holding a disproportionate number of departments for eight years, with Sisodia holding as many as 18 departments out of 32.

The elevation, therefore, seems not necessitated due to recognition of merit, but due to circumstances, which has made CM Kejriwal even more careful of who he inducts in his close coterie.

(with inputs from PTI)

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