CM Kejriwal scores 100 days, not out

Survives many controversies, including split in AAP and showdown with LG

The anti-corruption movement-linked Aam Aadmi Party’s government coming to power has seen the city being used as a lab for political experiments. The latest one is Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s 100-day celebration event on Monday which has been named as open cabinet session.

As hectic activity was launched in Connaught Place on Sunday for the event, the Chief Minister is ready with a report card to be presented with 10 large LCD monitors in the Central Park. His critics, on the other hand, are ready with a long list of failures of the Kejriwal government.

Kejriwal was unlucky in his previous 49-day stint to miss out on a half century in his chief ministerial innings but the current century surely is a memorable one. He is comfortably saddled to set a new personal record on the number of days of his rule the city.

The first 100 days of the Kejriwal government have been eventful. He and his team have been creating news and highlighting achievements of the government at regular intervals and the rivals have been using all opportunities to expose the chinks in the AAP government’s armour.

Kejriwal has survived many controversies, including a split in the AAP and the latest showdown with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung over appointment of bureaucrats.

Each time, team Kejriwal has used controversial remarks to deflect criticism. In the latest, face-off with Jung over appointment of officials, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tried to tilt the balance in the favour of the Delhi government by claiming that there was a transfer-posting industry in the city involving crores of rupees which the AAP government has dismantled – a remark which has vilified the institution of Lieutenant Governor and eroded public trust in bureaucracy.

On Sunday, he fired another salvo to clarify that the two-day Assembly session next week is to settle the bureaucrats’ appointment issue. Sources said a House resolution against the Central government may be in the offing.

After winning a historic mandate in the second innings, the Kejriwal government has opened the gates of government coffers with little pretensions or efforts to cut administrative costs. While the chief minister talked loud about reconstituting departments on the basis of their utility, he showed little restraint when he appointed 21 parliamentary secretaries and 11 district committee heads – many of whom were given offices and official vehicles for efficiency.

The cabinet ministers also did not hesitate in moving into government accommodation and spend public funds to furnish their bungalows with air-conditioners and plasma TVs.

Yet, the AAP’s innovative thinking is setting a high benchmark for all political outfits which are far from conceiving internationally recognised techniques like citizen participation in governance with a polling booth level footprint.

The budgeting exercise conducted in 12 Assembly constituencies by involving local residents was one such initiative which was initially chaotic but got more organised and was packed well by Kejriwal’s spin doctors to get the right TRPs. All along, Congressmen cried their lungs out that this was a new version of the Bhagidari scheme launched by former chief minister Sheila Dikshit by giving financial powers to the resident welfare associations.

While the making of budget with the help of citizens was showcased well by the AAP government but questions remain on whether Delhiites, who have scant regard for planned growth and law, are prepared for such civilised practices.

The fulfilment of the promise of passing the Jan Lokpal Bill and Swaraj Bill in Delhi will be another litmus test for the AAP government which has called for a two-day special session of the Assembly on Tuesday and Wednesday to, perhaps, pass resolutions against the central government.

In his previous stint, Kejriwal quit in a hurry over the Jan Lokpal Bill and his rivals claim this time he might try to create constitutional crises forcing a premature end to his government as he wants to live with the image of a helpless martyr.

On the Swaraj and Jan Lokpal bills, Kejriwal as promised not to repeat the mistake of introducing them in the House without the approval of the central government but there is a strong indication that the last word has not yet been said by the AAP regime on the controversy over division of powers between the Lieutenant Governor and the chief minister.

The central government may has issued a notification clipping the wings of the AAP regime and formalising Jung’s sweeping powers, however, Kejriwal has called an emergency two-day session of the House to tell the world what he can do to undo decades of injustice with the Delhi government.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the AAP government is not going to quit mid-term. “We will not run away. We will continue the people’s fight.”We will take on any power if needed to fight corruption and bring about change, he said.

Observers believe Kejriwal’s hidden agenda is to get full statehood for his government but the road ahead may not be easy. The skirmishes with the central government will continue in the months ahead and Kejriwal would be wise enough not to threaten or quit in haste and disappoint his admirers, yet again.

Apart from the confrontations with the central government, the AAP government has been tested in the 100 days through agitation by government doctors and strike by Delhi Transport Corporation drivers after a colleague’s killing in road rage. The government used the Essential Services Maintenance Act effectively in both the cases.

The shortage of swine flu drugs caught the government unawares and the funds shortage of the civic agencies and disruption of sanitation services have also tested Kejriwal’s prowess. The impending power tariff is again check the government’s pro-people commitment.

The death of a Rajasthan farmer at a rally addressed by Kejriwal was another low for his team. While names of some of his team members in police FIR for the incident is going to cause some pain in the neck in the coming days.  Kejriwal was quick to apologise for not stopping his speech at the rally at time but the role of some of his cabinet members at the venue is still under the probe agency’s lens.

Milestones

Relief for unauthorised constructions: Registration of properties which were barred from sale and purchase due to presence of illegal construction was restarted through a decision on April 14. The government also started collecting higher revenue and stamp duty.

Labour Day gift: The Kejriwal government relaunched helpline number 12,789 for labourers. The scheme announced on May 1 under the labour welfare mission.Bonanza for autorickshaw drivers: The Chief Minister on May 17 announced annual revision of fares for autorickshaws and also opened a bag of goodies for the drivers who voted in  large numbers for the AAP in the elections.

Water and sewer connection charges reduced: Applying for a new water and sewer connection became more pocket-friendly with a reduction in initial charges announced on May 19.

Curbs on demolition: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took oath on February 14 and within two days his government put the brakes on demotion and sealing in slums and colonies.

Breather for contractual staff: The AAP government showed its magnanimity by assuring contractual employees on February 17 that services of none of them would be terminated. 

Second life for e-rickshaws: Despite several controversies, the e-rickshaws’ return to selected city roads was made feasible by the AAP government on February 20 when it started special camps for owner-drivers of these battery-run three-wheeled vehicles to apply for learner’s licence.

Free water, cheap power: Quite like the 49-day first stint of the AAP government, power tariff sops and free water announcement cornered all the limelight in the first fortnight of the AAP government. Under the benefits offered to people on February 25, 20,000 litre free water was offered to each household with a metered connection and power tariff for consumption up to 400 units every month was cut by half, starting March 1. The annual subsidy on both the sops added up to Rs 1,400 crore.

Water surcharge waived: Water consumers were offered relief on March 5 with the waiver of surcharge added to water bills. Special camps were also held to give benefit to consumers.

Digitisation of 10 lakh traders’ data: The task of digitising VAT-paying 10 lakh traders was launched on March 25. The purpose was to centralise the data so that the VAT department could conveniently detect those who do not pay tax.

1031 anti-corruption helpline: The relaunch of the anti-corruption helpline, perhaps, the most trumpeted achievement of the Kejriwal government which served as a reminder to people about the AAP’s commitment to fighting corruption. The grand function at a stadium on April 5 unveiled a more potent version of the helpline which was equipped with the facility to accept video clips and sound recordings on-line. The energisation of the Anti-Corruption Branch saw 36 government employees being arrested and 152 cases being registered.

Compensation for farmers: On April 11, the AAP government announced a compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre to farmers whose crop was damaged in rain. The move seemed aimed at keeping the government in the good books of rural voters who supported Kejriwal in polls.

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