It was towards the last days of Indian Against Corruption, the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, that a 23-year-old Raghav Chadha met the latter. Soon after, in 2012, Chadha, a chartered accountant by training who went to the London School of Economics, got involved in the framing of the Delhi Lokpal Bill.
Now, 10 years later, Chadha is set to become the youngest sitting member of the Rajya Sabha — elections for five Upper House seats from Punjab are scheduled to be held on March 31.
Chadha, an alumnus of Delhi’s Modern School, Barakhamba, whose engagement with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) started in 2012, donned several hats in the party – he was initially involved in drafting key legislation such as the Jan Lokpal, before being appointed as the party spokesperson in 2015. He has also been closely involved with legal matters involving the AAP and its members – of which there have been several.
“When Raghav joined the party, he was among the many young people who were influenced by our style of politics and Kejriwal’s style of functioning. Where he excelled was hard work. Over the years, he has been given several roles and responsibilities in the party and he has managed them well. From being a spokesperson who would square off with rivals leaders twice or thrice his age on national television, to working with leaders on legal cases involving the party, Raghav has done it well at a very young age. While he was initially teased by party members and colleagues over his ‘chocolate boy’ looks, he has shown immense growth over the years and has earned their respect,” said a senior party leader.
According to party officials, Chadha has been successful in communicating to the party top brass that he is capable of handling big responsibilities. Even before he was named the co-in charge of Punjab before the Assembly polls there, he was the party’s top choice for one of the seven Lok Sabha seats from Delhi in 2019.
In an election where the AAP drew a blank, Chadha, who had been fielded from South Delhi, managed to get the highest vote share among all party candidates. The party gave him another chance in the 2020 Assembly polls, which he won from the Rajinder Nagar constituency in west Delhi.
Within a few days, he was given charge of the Delhi Jal Board, a key department which has been on top of the AAP’s agenda with the party promising free water and sewer lines for all, and now, 24×7 water supply.
Within days of AAP winning the Assembly polls in February, riots broke out in Northeast Delhi. While it does not have control of law and order and policing in the city, as the ruling party, the AAP came under fire from several quarters for its failure to prevent the violence.
In March that year, the Delhi Assembly set up a committee, the Peace and Harmony Committee, to suggest measures to restore harmony among religious communities, with Chadha as its chairperson. In July last year, Facebook India MD Ajit Mohan was summoned by the committee for a hearing in the context of complaints that the social media platform had failed to remove hate speech material during the riots. The matter went to court, with Facebook saying the committee could not summon a non-member and investigate an issue on which it lacked the power to enact laws, since the Delhi government does not have policing powers. The AAP government finally prevailed when the court adjudged that while the Assembly Committee did not have the power to recommend action against Mohan, they had the right to summon him.
When he was appointed the co-in-charge for Punjab, along with Tilak Nagar MLA Jarnail Singh, there was apprehension in the state, as well as in Delhi.
“Punjab was a state where we had a strong presence, but there had been a lot of infighting since 2017, when the AAP won 20 seats. With that in mind, some people were not sure if sending Raghav there was the right decision because he was seen as an outsider. But for several months, he camped there and won the confidence of many leaders. He was also closely involved in ticket distribution. That did lead to heartburn, but it was only natural. Eventually, the results vindicated his position,” said another senior AAP leader.
Now on track to becoming the youngest sitting member of Rajya Sabha, Chadha’s role will change. In keeping with the AAP’s national ambition, he is set to be among the eight representatives of the party in the Upper House – three from Delhi who were elected in 2018 and five from Punjab.
“Like most other leaders from AAP, his journey has been tough so far but he has held his own. That is what the party expects from him in Rajya Sabha as well,” the leader added.