Political war looms as electricity demand rises

Parties try to win public sympathy as power cuts start

Residents of the capital are bracing for a summer of power shortage and political posturing. 

Several areas including south and east Delhi are already experiencing power outages and the political parties are all set to agitate on the issue to win public sympathy in a city where fresh Assembly elections seem imminent. 

According to leaders in the three political parties – the Congress, BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – they will not hesitate to raise the issue of power cuts even if there is no elected government in place. 

“We would get into virtual battle mode after the results of the Lok Sabha elections are announced on May 16,” said a BJP leader.

As the mercury rises, the power demand in Delhi is likely to cross 6,000 MW this season. Experts suggest the power distribution companies are surely going to blame the outages on the shortage of supply. During the summer months in 2013, the demand for power was around 5,500 MW.

Even though summer is yet to peak in Delhi, power distribution companies have begun scheduled power cuts, on the pretext of maintenance work.

“The maintenance work was put off in December 2013 as the then Congress government did not want any power cuts ahead of the Assembly elections,” said a source in BSES Rajdhani – a discom that serves areas in south, central and west Delhi.

Sources in the Delhi government said the power distribution companies (discoms) have been asked to do whatever they can to meet the rising demand for electricity. It is feared, though, that the power discoms may not purchase enough power on the pretext of a fund crunch.

Tata Power, one of the discoms in Delhi, has said on a number of occasions that it faces a huge challenge in recovering dues worth Rs 5,000 crore. “We have raised the issue several times,” said a company officer.

The scarcity of power, say sources in Delhi government, will help buttress the demand of the discoms for an increase in power tariff.

The discoms have for long been complaining of losing revenue and been pleading for an increase in the power tariff.

Sources said power unit had been asked to increase production to the extent possible. These units currently produce around 650 MW of power daily. They may produce some more power, but the demand can only be met if power is purchased from other states.

Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Harsh Vardhan has urged Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to put pressure on the discoms to intensify efforts to arrange sufficient power from other regions. 

“We have also requested him to ensure that there is no tariff hike till the time the discoms’ accounts are audited by the CAG,” he said.

Delhi Congress spokesperson Jitender Kochar said the party will aggressively protest against power cuts.

“Power and water issues have always been a priority for the party. The Arvind Kejriwal government’s inability to address these issues will be highlighted,” he said.

An AAP legislator, who is campaigning for Kejriwal in Varanasi, told over the phone: “We are going to tell the people that had we got more time in Delhi government, the problem of water and power shortage would have been solved.”

We have been seeking early elections in Delhi so that an elected government, rather than the bureaucracy, attends to the public grievances, he said. 

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