The year-end is almost upon us and a new AAP Government is finally imminent in Delhi. While this affects just the people in the tiny city-State in terms of its current anticipated writ, the AAP style politics is acting as a catalyst to the somnolence of all the other parties. And they have every intention to spread their wings during the forthcoming general election next year.
Narendra Modi as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundra Raje and Raman Singh may indeed be dynamic but the BJP as a whole has not been so. It has often been criticised for being a token Opposition Party, very comfortable with the loaves and fishes of privilege.
The Delhi BJP has declined to form the Government having fallen 4 seats short of a majority. It fell short of the numbers probably because of endemic and unseemly infighting among several ambitious leaders. The AAP got the benefit, both from the anger against the Congress and the disarray in the BJP, and was able to secure larger numbers of seats than was expected.
Congress has been a cesspit of blatant corruption, nepotism, maladministration and has presided over sharp price rises. It also continues with its age old and cynical vote-bank politics going back for as long as memory serves. But even the minorities are fed up of the scaremongering and non- delivery.
Coming to the new AAP Government likely to be sworn-in on Christmas Day and the BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, there is room for excitement. We, who live in Delhi, except for the privatised discoms themselves, are eagerly awaiting the 50% reduction in electricity tariff in place of the next hike, Mrs Sheila Dikshit was threatening.
And this hike was due in view of the Rs 16,000 crore shortfalls the discoms have been claiming between their power purchase/ distribution costs and the high tariff the groaning consumer is already paying against astronomical bills. Something is definitely wrong but Mrs Dikshit did not ever think so. And this is not counting the diesel generating costs, especially in summer and cold spells in winter. Privatisation, in this instance, has been far from cost efficient!
The discoms, oddly enough, have suddenly stopped clamouring for a hike in rates, and are rumoured to be quite worried about their books of accounts being examined for alleged ‘fudging’. Also their sympathetic champion, former Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit is no longer in the power seat. The AAP made this item an important election issue, as did the BJP, which promised a 30% reduction. So the Delhi Vidhan Sabha as a whole has promises to fulfil in this regard.
Kejriwal, the probable Chief Minister designate, has also promised the citizens of Delhi some respite from our soaring water bills and indeed 700 litres of water per household free every day. That our water bills are bundled with rapacious sewer maintenance charges surreptitiously introduced, that do not seem to be spent on sewer maintenance at all, is another Congress administered mystery. Certainly, every sewer pipe seems to be choked. No one has ever seen them being cleaned. And the merest downpour results in flooded roads and dirty water ingress into ground floor homes. Bundled together, water and sewer charges have risen some1100 per cent by one estimate!
Most Delhi consumers have been paying thousands of rupees in both water and electricity bills every month lately, and both items have now become a significant chunk of the household budget.
The big question is what will the AAP really do about these campaign promises once it forms the Government in Delhi? If it succeeds in bringing down these two tariffs, perhaps by the inevitable introduction of fresh subsidies, it will certainly earn the gratitude of Delhi’s population. This, in turn will go some way to give them a boost in their ambition to emerge on the national scene as well. The people of Delhi have high hopes and if the AAP delivers them, they won’t be the only ones. Conversely, they will stand exposed as loquacious, false promising politicians, no different from the rest!
None among the beneficiary aam admi are going to worry about how the price cuts will be squared. But some khaas admi are concerned about the viability of pulling off such reductions in tariff, if the discoms and Delhi Jal Board books of accounts stand up to scrutiny.
But the other obsession of the AAP is likely to take priority. And this is the Janlokpal Bill. It is unclear what this will achieve in actuality when most laws, rules and regulations are flouted routinely, particularly by the powerful political classes, but let us give it the benefit of doubt. AAP also plans to regularise every unauthorised colony in Delhi left unattended in this regard by the Congress.
It is also unclear how long the AAP’s alliance with the venal Congress will last. Kejriwal expects it to sustain for six months, implying this is enough for the AAP to extract political mileage for the general election and deliver on some of its promises. “AAP may be in for a surprise”.