Clean water assumes centre stage in Delhi elections

Aam Aadmi Party, led by Kejriwal, is banking on its delivery on the 'free water' promise to return to power for another five years, while the Modi government appears determined to corner him on the quality of water in the national capital. Photo/Twitter (@ArvindKejriwal)

 Campaigning for the Delhi assembly elections, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently sprang a surprise by asking an aide to fetch him a glass of water from a nearby tap and gulping it in front of the audience.

Kejriwal's action brought into sharp focus the role 'water' is set to play in the Delhi assembly elections.

Aam Aadmi Party, led by Kejriwal, is banking on its delivery on the 'free water' promise to return to power for another five years, while the Modi government appears determined to corner him on the quality of water in the national capital.

A water war of sorts had broken out between the Centre and the Delhi government when the Consumer Affairs Ministry released in November a report of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) claiming that all the 11 samples of tap water collected from across the capital were “undrinkable”.

The past few weeks saw several sharp exchanges between the AAP and the central government, particularly Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan, over the quality of water and the need for the issue to remain apolitical.

BJP picked up from where Paswan had left and hit the streets against the AAP government over the quality of water in the capital.

With his 'water act', Kejriwal was seeking to blunt the BJP campaign that also had Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlight the problem of clean drinking water in the capital.

Cheap water and electricity were AAP's key elections promises in 2013 and 2015 assembly elections. Immediately after coming to power in 2015, Kejriwal had announced a 50% subsidy on electricity tariffs and free water for those consuming 20,000 litres water per month.

Congress dismissed Kejriwal's action of drinking tap water at a public event as “stage-managed show” at the advise of strategist Prashant Kishor, who has been helping him with the election campaign.

In August last year, the Delhi government had announced a one-time waiver of water arrears under which all categories of houses were to receive an exemption from late fee payments and also a complete or partial waiver of pending bills depending on house category.

AAP has also announced that it would provide 24x7 piped water supply within the next five years.

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