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In A Hurry?
|by K.S. Subramanian|
The Aam Aadmi Party seems to be like a man in unusual hurry.
They had taken the half step of waiving up to 50 per cent pending electricity bills and penalty for consumers of Delhi which would, according to Delhi officials, cause a loss of Rs. 6 crore to the Board. This immediately raises the query of the capacity of the power grid to run full steam and supply all the consumers despite the revenue loss and if so for how long. Incidentally the AAP manifesto had promised 100 per cent waiver which if implemented would have put the loss higher. Also it leaves open the possibility that a lot of consumers who had used excess power with gadgets at home would come out delighted at the waiver. And the poor feeling happy at the relief but not relieved.
The infrastructure in Delhi – with its Metro rail network, high tension consumers et all – needs to be maintained with substantial revenue accrual and the Delhi Power Board, including the distribution companies, is a key element in it. As it is the latter has unpaid arrears to the tune of crores to the NTPC which if prolonged would lead to curtailment of power quota. It is populist argument for the AAP to claim to implement its manifesto or atleast half of it but the cost to the exchequer is a different question altogether. The distribution companies, BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna and Tata Power had already said that they did not have funds to buy power from NTPC without a hike in surcharge.
Buried in all this is the fact that slum dwellers in Delhi do not even have proper power lines laid to their areas, or meters. Already power supply in the metros or other cities has been subsidized which pegs the very question of whether subsidy is allowable or has to be rationalized. So freebies actually amount to rubbing salt into the wounds of the Power Grid. AAP caught on to the freebies regime watching other political parties play the game in the states ruled by them(not necessarily in the power front) because they did not want to be left behind in the policy mileage.
All these give an unmistakable feeling that the measures are timed to up the ante against the two major parties – BJP and the Congress - before the elections in April and bolster their political credibility among largely the middle class though voters in the interiors are still divided in their preferences on narrow lines of caste and religion. The behaviour of the rural voters is still unfathomable for the AAP whose only trump card so far has been corruption which cuts across lines of voter divisions, not governance. The BJP at least is focused on governance as the main issue and is banking on anti-incumbency factor. AAP is yet to prove itself in governance but seems to think that drastic subsidy based measures and whipping the UPA on corruption would pay off in April elections. Hence the latest FIR against Mukesh Ambani and others on gas price which puts them in the forefront of struggling against the govt.- corporate nexus in the core sector.
All these leave a palpable feeling that AAP’s preoccupation now is not to prove itself in governance and carry out the voter mandate in Delhi but enhance its political mileage with an eye on the general elections. While it is legitimate for any party, fledgling or otherwise, to have national ambitions it has to be buttressed by a track record in governance too. The AAP would have been better placed for 2019 if it had taken up the challenge of streamlining the power distribution, water supply and putting the Delhi economy on track, if not generating a surplus. Otherwise the voters are equally legitimate to feel that they have been let down.
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