Cleverly formulated populist schemes

Cleverly formulated populist schemes

Within days of assuming power after the December 4 Assembly elections, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party has managed to deliver on the pre-poll promise of giving free 700 litre water daily to metered households and reducing the power bills by half of households using up to 400 units a month. His government also launched the anti-corruption helpline.

For the record, the AAP has delivered on the promises that attracted the maximum public attention. However, the benefits of the populist announcements on water and power may not reach all the people equitably. 

Another helpline launched on nursery aadmissions-related problems was put on hold after a brief trial run. This exposed the limitations of using helplines to deliver on some promises. 

The AAP voters in Delhi are supportive and accommodative. Even if they do not get the promised volume of water, they would not want to desert their party. 

They want to give their new party more time to deliver on its promises. However, there is a small minority of people in some housing societies and unauthorised colonies who were expecting instant results on the water and power fronts. And this section of people is not happy. 

The residents of slums and unauthorised colonies may take some time to realise the in-built riders in Kejriwal’s announcements that may deprive them of some of the benefits. However, a large chunk of the middle class, especially in group housing societies, are angry over being kept out of the beneficiary list. 

Against the city’s population of about 1.8 crore, only 19.65 lakh households have piped water connection, out of which only eight to nine lakh households have metered water connection, according to DJB sources.

Out of 34 lakh households in the city, six lakh households would not get any benefit from the power bill cut proposed by the government as these households use more than 400 units of power every month and would be made to pay for the all the units consumed. In the run-up to the elections, the AAP never let the voters realise that its promises on free water and reduction in power bills were not going to be implemented across the city and for everyone.

Kejriwal has been candidly seeking more time to deliver on some of the fronts and the AAP supporter is willing to do so.  The chief minister has also proposed 10 per cent hike in water tariff for households which use more than 20 kilo litre water in a month. This again would make a segment of middle class voters unhappy. 

Former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal has said the subsidy route taken by the new government to reduce the power bills would, in a way, slow down development projects. 

It costs the Delhi government Rs 200 crore as subsidy bill from January to March, in lieu of reduction in power charges. This money goes to the private power companies.  The audit of the accounts of private power companies ordered by the Delhi government may add to its popularity. The outcome of the exercise would determine if the subsidy for cutting consumers’ power bills would continue beyond March. 

April, the month in which Lok Sabha elections are likely to begin in phases, would be crucial for the Delhi government. As the mercury would start rising, voters would expect equitable distribution of water better than what the situation was in the previous Congress regime. 

Ahead of the Assembly elections, Kejriwal had promised action against allegedly tainted ministers of the previous government, including former chief minister Sheila Dikshit. It remains to be seen if voters are willing to allow the promised probe against Dikshit fade from their memory. 

The voters in slums and unauthorised colonies, a bulk of whom are supporters of the AAP, may give the new government a long rope. They would be the repeat voters for the young party even if the Kejriwal government’s performance on the development front is lacklustre.

The drama over Kejriwal’s plans to move into a big flat, followed by a rethink is bound to remain in public memory for some time. The chief minister realises that a small house would get him sympathy and votes in next elections.
   The bottomline is that the AAP voter is blindly in love with Kejriwal, they would support his party in the Lok Sabha polls or any elections in the near future no matter what his government’s performance would be. 

Delhi has seven Lok Sabha seats and the AAP would contest all the seats and traditional rivals BJP and the Congress would be part of the triangular fight. The assessment of the AAP government’s functioning by traditional voters of the BJP and the Congress, in terms of its performance and delivery of promises, would determine if the nascent party’s fate in the Lok Sabha elections.

 A Controversy a day dogs AAP

1    Media entry banned in Delhi Secretariat after AAP came to power. Decision reversed after uproar.

2   Kejriwal shortlists two-flats of five-bedrooms each as official residence and camp office; retracts after being criticised for abandoning self-proclaimed austerity.

3   Law minister Somnath Bharti directs law secretary to convene a meeting of district judges to discuss pending judges. Had to back out after being told it was domain of the chief justice of Delhi High Court.

4   Bharti, also the culture minister, annoys film connoisseurs by turning up late for the screening of a Satyajit Ray classic; stops the screening to make a political speech.

5   Education minister Manish Sisodia triggers controversy by announcing reservation of 90% seats in Delhi colleges for residents of the capital.

6   AAP volunteers crowd Delhi Secretariat, take lead in arranging meetings of ministers, rendering the government secretarial staff without any work.

7   AAP leader Kumar Vishwas’ comments on religious practices riles Muslim clerics.

8   AAP leader Prashant Bhushan triggers controversy by suggesting referendum in Kashmir on continuance of army in the valley. AAP office attacked.

9   26-year-old Delhi Minister Rakhi Birla claims she was attacked while visiting a temple. Inquiry finds that her private car was hit by a cricket ball tossed by children playing nearby.

10  AAP unit in Chennai splits before launch with rival groups expelling each other from the party. 

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