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IRS Officer Sunita Kejriwal: A Profile of Strength and Steadfastness

Sunita Kejriwal was an Indian Revenue service (IRS) Officer of 1993 batch, two batches senior to her husband Arvind Kejriwal, an IRS officer of 1995 batch She had a stint at the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and handled cases involving various prominent business enterprises To learn more about her journey, watch the video given in the article
Indian Masterminds Stories

People of Delhi had seen Sunita Kejriwal accompanying her husband, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a number of times. But, they heard her voice for the first time when she released a video after meeting Arvind in ED custody. “I am Sunita Kejriwal, Arvind Kejriwal’s wife”, is how she began her address. But, that is not the only identity she has.

Watch the video here-

FORMER IRS OFFICER

Sunita Kejriwal (nee Agrawal) was an Indian Revenue service (IRS) Officer of 1993 batch, two batches senior to her husband, an IRS officer of 1995 batch. Both had been allotted Income Tax department. The two met in Bhopal during a training for IRS officers, hit off well and got married the same year. According to their batch-mates both Arvind and Sunita used to be shy and reserved people who would mostly keep it to themselves. Their union marked the beginning of a partnership characterized by mutual support and shared values. Their paths however separated in 1999 when Arvind, while still in service, formed an NGO called Parivartan, to ensure bribe-free tax returns in Income Tax department.

While Arvind kept digging deeper and deeper into activism and politics, Sunita tended her work and the family – two children and Arvind’s parents besides the constant stream of guests. Though She did make occasional public appearances by Arvind’s side – when he won Delhi Assembly elections in 2015 and again in 2020 and also during a road show during 2014 Varanasi Lok Sabha elections which Arvind contested against BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. “She melted her personality into just being Arvind’s wife”, is how one her batchmates described her.  Arvind too was never shy of giving her credit of being the rock supporting his life. After a thumping win in the 2015 Delhi assembly polls, where AAP secured 67 of the 70 seats, Arvind Kejriwal’s first tweet was dedicated to Sunita. “Thank u Sunita for always being there,” he had posted.

WORK ETHIC

In the meantime, she had a stint at the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and handled cases involving various prominent business enterprises. Her many postings included Amritsar and Nagpur. When unable to cope with increasing official and personal engagements, finally, she took VRS in 2016 she was serving as the chief commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT) at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in Delhi, where she handled complex cases with finesse.

Sunita’s journey began in New Delhi, where she pursued a postgraduate degree in zoology before embarking on a career in public service. According to her friends in the IRS, Her tenure in the Income Tax department, spanning over two decades, showcased her dedication and integrity. “Sincere”, “dedicated” “honest” and “punctual” is how her former colleague and batchmate Sunil Sharma describes her. “I met her in Mussoorie. She was a very good gymnast, very flexible, and had excellent self-defence skills. She is a bold person who would never sound defeated or complain. Her work was near perfect even after all the workload she had,” he said in an interview.

Former colleagues recall her remarkable work ethic and unwavering determination, evident even in the face of daunting challenges. Despite the demanding nature of her profession, she managed to balance her responsibilities with grace, earning the respect and admiration of those around her. However, it is her humility and compassion that truly set her apart, qualities that have endeared her to both friends and acquaintances alike.

FROM LOW PROFILE TO PUBLIC EYE

Despite her notable contributions and capabilities, Sunita’s inclination towards politics remained subdued. Even after her voluntary retirement in 2016, she continued to maintain a low profile, choosing to focus on family life rather than seeking political prominence. Her reluctance to immerse herself in the political fray was evident, with little involvement in party affairs or public engagements. Instead, she preferred to operate behind the scenes, providing support to her husband and his political endeavors from the sidelines.

In recent times, however, circumstances have thrust Sunita into a more visible role within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), particularly following her husband’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate. As Arvind Kejriwal faces legal challenges, Sunita has found herself at the forefront of the party’s activities, symbolizing resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Despite her newfound prominence, she remains true to her nature, maintaining a sense of humility and modesty amidst the political whirlwind.

Questions regarding Sunita’s potential ascension to the role of Delhi’s Chief Minister have surfaced, fuelled by comparisons to other political figures who assumed leadership roles in their spouses’ absence. However, opinions on her readiness for such a responsibility remain divided. While some highlight her administrative prowess and organizational skills, others question her political experience and readiness to navigate the complexities of governance.

POLITICAL DYNAMICS

A number of people who might have parted ways with AAP and the Kejriwal family for any reason but have maintained high regard for sunita. “She was always respectful to the party members,” recalls journalist and former AAP member Ashutosh.

While Aam Aadmi Party leaders like Saurabh Bhardwaj and Aatishi have steadfastly maintained that Sunita won’t be taking up the reigns of Delhi government in her husband’s absence, her presence on the state of joint opposition rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan betrayed some other political connotations. A person who had never faced a crowd of more than scores of people, remained calm and composed betraying no signs of nervousness in front of lakhs of people, as she read out her husband’s message sent from his prison cell.

Union minister and BJP leader Anurag Thakur has compared Sunita to Rabri Devi, wife of former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav who began making announcements in his absence when he was arrested in the fodder scam. She eventually assumed the role of Bihar CM. As Sunita was seen sharing the stage with leaders of the INDIA bloc at the 31 March mega rally in Delhi, BJP leader Bansuri Swaraj asked if she was the new official CM of Delhi since she has been delivering messages on Kejriwal’s behalf.

Senior Rajya Sabha member of the party Sanjay Singh maintains that Sunita has not been involved much in party affairs and doesn’t visit the party office at all. Whomsoever wishes to meet her, they go to the CM’s residence, he said. “While all the decisions are being taken by senior AAP members, including Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Gopal Rai and Kailash Gehlot, they are being endorsed by Kejriwal. She is just passing his message forward,” he added.

A STEADY PRESENCE IN INDIAN POLITICS

Despite the allure of political power, she has remained resolutely grounded, eschewing the trappings of fame and influence. Her reluctance to seek the limelight speaks volumes about her character, embodying the virtues of humility, integrity, and selflessness. She is a newcomer to politics. Even if she has to assume a more prominent role in the party or the government, she will need grooming and guidance, claimed another AAP leader.

As the political landscape continues to evolve, Sunita Kejriwal remains a steady presence in the tumultuous world of Indian politics. Whether she chooses to embrace a more prominent role or continue her behind-the-scenes support, her legacy of strength and resilience will undoubtedly endure, inspiring generations to come.

Her story is a grim reminder of how women tend to let their own personality dissolve to promote their spouse and children’s career. Yet, it also demonstrates how a bureaucrat is trained to face adversities of life and career.


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