Not an aam year for Kejriwal

Aam Aadmi Party's first year in office has been dogged by controversies

The first year of the Aam Aadmi Party government in office has been eventful. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claims to have passed the first-year test with flying colours, but rival Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress disagree. 

Two cabinet ministers being dropped on corruption charges, a CBI raid on the Delhi Secretariat, an onion crises and repeated strikes by municipal sanitation workers in a year somewhat dented the image of the AAP government.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, Delhi Police, private power distribution companies and BJP-run municipal corporations were Kejriwal’s favourite punching bags.

His controversial statements and tweets alternated with high-pitch attempts by rivals to highlight the AAP government’s slip-ups. 

Calling Modi a “psycho” in a tweet and referring to policemen as “thulla” in a TV interview were two offensives by Kejriwal which almost boomeranged on the ruling AAP. 

Kejriwal and his cabinet ministers found themselves in tight spots over corruption and other wrongdoings by Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar and Food Supplies Minister Asim Ahmed Khan – both of whom had to lose their berths. Their removal gave plenty of ammunition to rival parties to target the AAP government, which itself is a creation of an anti-corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare.

There was more trouble when the Congress released a sting on alleged corruption linked to the new Food Supplies Minister Imran Hussain, just a week before the first anniversary of the AAP government on February 14. 

Kejriwal tactfully showcased the “successful” odd-even road rationing scheme and announced its return in April, apparently to undo the harm caused to the government’s image by the two-week long sanitation workers’ strike over pending salaries. Although the workers come under BJP-run municipal corporations, Delhi government got considerable flak for not releasing the funds needed to pay their wages.

Another strike, by nearly 200 bureaucrats just a day before the January 1-15 odd-even campaign was the darkest episode in the continuing distrust between officials and Team Kejriwal. 

Focus areasDespite announcements on big focus on education sector, new school and college buildings could not be built as briskly as projected. A hasty announcement to prune the school syllabus and reduce work load on kids in the middle of the academic year very nearly sparked chaos. 

The Kejriwal government’s most awaited gift for youth – free Wi-Fi – arrived in bits and pieces. Free Wi-Fi could be started only in just 200 DTC buses and at some tourist hotspots but the scheme failed to touch colleges. 

The mismanagement and scare during the dengue and swine flu scares were a blot on health department’s performance. 

Health Minister Satyendar Jain blamed the BJP-run municipal corporations for the dengue epidemic and announced that in 2016 the anti-mosquito fogging activity would be taken up by the city government instead of these civic agencies.  The free medicine scheme in government hospitals started with hiccups. The failure to build more than just one mohalla clinic – despite plans for 1,000 such facilities – also needs some explanation. 

On the transport front, the odd-even scheme’s outcome on cleaning the air remained doubtful and the monthly car-free day events were virtually reduced to in-house campaigns of the ruling AAP. 

The e-rickshaws did not return to roads in large numbers  despite best attempts of the government. Alleged wrongdoings in the issue of autorickshaw permits and CNG vehicle stickers continued to haunt the transport department. 

No permanent solution for DTC’s poor finances was found and virtually not a single new bus added to its fleet. 

The frequent strikes by municipal workers demanding salaries raised questions over the AAP government’s ability to find a way out of tight situations affecting the public. The strike lost steam on the 13th day but by then it had cast a shadow over the government’s first anniversary celebrations. 

Blaming Kejriwal for poor governance, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said: “Never ever have so many strikes by the civic workers taken place in the city in the past two decades.” 

Nursery admissionsThe court orders undoing the Education Department‘s attempts to remove the management quota in nursery admissions was an embarrassment for the Kejriwal government.  BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Vijender Gupta said it was the court’s intervention which reduced the chaos and panic that the Kejriwal government’s decision caused. 

He said the government shifted blame for unfulfilled targets on building new schools on the funds it had to release to municipal corporations for paying wages to their agitating employees. 

Regularisation of contract teachers and other contractual employees also remained a thorny issue. 

The inability of the Transport Department and Environment Department to face National Green Tribunal’s queries on phasing out old diesel vehicles also raised questions on the government’s commitment to clean environment. 

There were delays in completing the interceptor drains meant to trap and treat the sewage of drains that fall into the polluted Yamuna. A special purpose vehicle for Yamuna cleaning remained only on paper. 

The Lokpal Bill passed by Assembly was not what was promised by the AAP before elections, Maken has alleged.

As the AAP government’s anti-corruption helpline started losing its sheen and the number of public complaints dwindled, the Kejrwal government blamed Jung for taking control of the Anti-Corruption Bureau by posting Mukesh Meena as its head.

Kejriwal alleged Meena had made the probe wing defunct in a deliberate attempt to tarnish the AAP government’s image. 

Jung vs KejriwalThe scare of VAT collection shortfall impacting government spending seemed real till the last quarter of the fiscal. While extending financial help of Rs 693 crore to the municipal corporations to end the strike this month, Kejriwal himself admitted that his government was staring at Rs 3,000 crore shortfall in VAT collection in 2015-16. 

Kejriwal’s first year in office would be remembered for the AAP government’s frequent run-ins with Jung, a representative of the BJP-led central government. 

Whether it was the issue of crime against women or the so-called inability of Delhi Police to check such incidents, or transfer of bureaucrats, the AAP government found most of its decision to shift officials or order probes being declared null and void by the LG due to legal infirmities. 

Kejriwal’s attempts to constitute Commissions of Inquiry — to probe multi-crore CNG fitness scam, corruption in Delhi cricket body or to probe police laxity in acting upon complaints of women — were declared bad in law by the Union Home Ministry. In retaliation, the AAP government refused to reverse its decisions and continued to provide all the facilities to the CoIs. 

For the first time since 1993 when an elected Delhi government came into being, the LG — the constitutional head of the Union Territory — was forced to appoint a separate team of lawyers than that of the city government. 
Kejriwal spared no opportunity to slam Police Commissioner B S Bassi over shocking incidents of crimes against women. Every time there was a public outcry over an incident, the Chief Minister renewed his demand to control the Delhi Police. 

The Chief Minister also told Modi to spare more time on checking crime in the city or hand over the force to the AAP government. 

But Bassi kept repeating that Delhiites were fortunate that the force was under the central government as reporting to the city government would have been chaotic.
 He was in a tight spot when the ruling AAP tried to link him to some alleged wrongdoings by his brother in purchase of a flat in a Rohini-based cooperative housing society. 

According to BJP leader Vijender Gupta the AAP government’s plan to install water ATMs in unauthorised colonies and sell water to poor people living in unauthorised colonies at Rs 5 per 20 litres was aimed at causing a benefit of Rs 500 crore to a private firm selected against the financial rules. 

Gupta also alleged irregularities and demanded CBI probes into AAP government’s contracts for purchasing onions for subsidised sale and sugar purchase for sale through ration shops. 

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