In one of the previous articles, I had mentioned that this time the National Capital Territory (NCT) Delhi has elected its government on the most populist and ambitious agenda under the sky so far with virtually no opposition for the next five years. The next in the line would be how, after formation, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) government acts to implement its Manifesto and Action Plan. Will the party and government would revisit its Manifesto and Action Plan to fine-tune it realistically commensurate with their revenue resources or they choose to go on a warpath with the Central Government on various demands and excuses seeking disproportionate share to meet their massive commitments passing buck and blame on the latter for every failure.
Like I said earlier, in a parliamentary democracy, ultimately people’s mandate matters and the people in Delhi rallied this time solidly behind the AAP on their dream agenda of good governance and better life for citizens. Now they should bear with whatever comes during the next five years. Irony in this country is that the political parties raise the aspirations of people and bureaucracy is told to translate it to reality. With the upsurge of the AAP, many people had considered it a party with difference but it has proved without wasting any time that it is no exception.
During my long years in bureaucracy, I have come across several instances where the head of a department or organization was the most colourless and lackluster in performance but because his voice matters while in office, he (or she) finds umpteen outcomes and achievements to claim as his (or her) wonderful contribution during the tenure. Political leaders and parties are no exception and the AAP too has done it aggressively publicizing its achievements in hundred days recently. However, the author having no affiliation, sympathy or aversion to any political party, would like to evaluate the AAP’s performance with reference to their Manifesto and seventy-point Action Plan on which they had successfully persuaded the Delhi electorate to vote for them in their door-to-door campaigning during the last elections.
Election Manifesto and Action Plan
Just to recapitulate, the salient points from the AAP Manifesto and Action Plan are briefly summarized hereunder:
A Delhi that provides employment to all.
A Delhi that provides high quality education to all.
A Delhi that ensures excellent healthcare to all.
A Delhi that is safe for women.
A Delhi that keeps pace with an ever increasing population’s demands for more roads, transport and traffic systems.
A Delhi that provides affordable electricity and clean drinking water to all its citizens.
A Delhi that provides essential services to all its citizens.
A Delhi proud of the Yamuna brought alive by clean water and beautiful riverbank.
A Delhi where all communities live together, secure in a social fabric that is inclusive and peaceful.
A Delhi that is pollution-free; and
A Delhi where the citizen is made an equal stakeholder and voice in the city’s progress.
Apart from the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, Swaraj Bill and full statehood, the AAP had committed on reduction of the electricity bill to half, clean drinking and free lifeline water, 500 new schools and 20 new colleges, 2,00,000 public toilets, increased spending on education and healthcare, 900 new Primary Health Centres and 30, 000 additional beds in Delhi hospitals, 47 new fast-track courts for speedy justice, Wi-Fi freely available across Delhi, lowest VAT regime, 8 lakhs jobs in next five years, regularize all contractual posts, at least 5,000 new buses in Delhi fleet, 10-15 lakh CCTV cameras, and so on so forth. These are some illustrations of the commitments and assurances made by the Party for the next five years.
AAP Thy Name is Controversy
In their earlier stint of 49 days before exiting the government on the pretext of the Jana Lokpal Bill, almost each day was marred with a fresh controversy involving individual leaders or party as a whole with the AAP ministers and legislatures resorting to dharna, agitation and hunger strike umpteen times pitted against the federal government. Chief Minister Mr Arvind Kejriwal who came to power on a promise of clean and efficient governance, hardly had time for the job as the bulk of his time was spent in handling one or the other controversy.
Mr Kejriwal took oath of the office as Chief Minister of Delhi on February 14, 2015 for the second time with a new hope and vigour for a clean, efficient and corruption-free governance. Alas, the second stint has been no exception and the events in the last three months have amply proved ‘Controversy thy name is Aam Aadmi Party’. Although a few of the party’s election promises such as reduced power tariff by 50 per cent for consumption up to 400 units per month and free 20,000 litres of water to every household per month were fulfilled by taking early decisions to that effect yet the party has been in news more due to controversies surrounding it rather than any worthwhile outcome on a good governance.
Interestingly, the party top leadership aggressively encouraged the common people to carry out sting operations to catch corrupt and dishonest officials. Ironically, several audio and video clips surfaced in the recent past involving sting operations on the party and government head himself. These were publicly shown by the media covering instances like Mr Kejriwal encouraging horse-trading in 2014 to form government or using un-parliamentary words against senior party leaders like Prashant Bhusan and Yogendra Yadav. These stings were certainly in bad taste with once again flagging the point that the AAP need to handle issues facing the party in a more mature manner. A senior AAP leader from Maharashtra, Anjali Damania, resigned from the party after the tapes’ controversy stating that she had joined the AAP and backed Mr Kejriwal on "principles" and not for "horse-trading".
Before the controversies of tapes and allegations could subside, the AAP was marred with another crisis involving the power struggle within the party. Since the AAP’s formation, founding members and senior party leaders Mr Prashan Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav had a clean image and were considered as the party’s think tank. Perhaps tension was brewing between the Kejriwal camp and these leaders for months together and it escalated as Mr Kejriwal went to Bangalore’s Jindal Nature Cure Institute to cure his chronic cough and diabetes. While the duo raised questions on the party supremo’s dictatorial style of functioning and certain ethical issues in the party, the Kejriwal camp accused them for working towards ensuring the party’s defeat in Delhi, undermining Kejriwal’s authority and attempting to remove him from the party convener’s post. The high tension drama continued for a few weeks and ended with the removal of the duo from the party posts and finally expulsion from the party along with certain other lesser known leaders.
In yet another controversy, Chief Minister Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Yogendra Yadav also faced the wrath of a Delhi court in a defamation case as the Court took a strong view on their continued absence in a defamation case and slammed them for having "no respect for the law".
A major blow came to the party in their recent agitation against the NDA Government’s land acquisition bill. A rally was organized in the heart of the Delhi city wherein thousands of farmers having allegiance to the AAP from various parts of the country participated. The rally ended in a fiasco after a farmer from Rajasthan reportedly hanged himself on a tree in full view of the top leadership and police. The death of the farmer led to widespread criticism and several unanswered questions on the ability and sensitivity of the party top leadership about handling the genuine problems of the common man.
As if the above controversies were not enough, the AAP Government’s recent tiff and face-off with the Lieutenant Governor on the bureaucracy has created ripples and a major constitutional crisis. This started with Lieutenant Governor of Delhi appointing the senior most bureaucrat Shakuntala D Gamlin as acting chief secretary in May, 2015 while the regular incumbent was on leave Ex-India for ten days, contrary to the wishes of the Chief Minister who wanted another officer of his choice for the job. The Chief Minister publicly accused the lady bureaucrat in a press conference of lobbying for a big corporate house’s power distribution companies and got the room locked of another senior bureaucrat for issuing her appointment letter. The event triggered a series of action and reaction affecting and demoralizing the top bureaucracy between the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor culminating in a tussle and a tug of war for supremacy that soon reached the doors of President Pranab Mukherjee.
Reportedly, both the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Minister visited Rashtrapati Bhavan within few hours over a series of contentious bureaucratic appointments. The president gave a patient hearing on the unprecedented stand-off followed by a meeting with the union home minister, leading to a clarificatory notification from the Home Ministry of the Central Government upholding powers of the Lieutenant Governor in senior bureaucratic appointments. This has further escalated confrontation and to cut this long story short, the matter in now pending in the highest Court of the Indian Republic.
Currently, both the Central and Delhi state governments have filed petitions in the Supreme Court and Delhi High court respectively with a view to get vindicated their respective stands on the powers of the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Minister and interpretation of the constitutional position on the subject. The Law and Judiciary are supposed to strictly go by the rule book, evidence and precedence, yet ironically different courts on different occasions take different views delivering different decisions on a subject. Hence, whatever is the outcome of the litigation, let us not forget that there are universal ethics and values which are immutable and beyond human jurisdiction, and any reasonable person should follow them. There was absolutely no need to escalate the issue of giving temporary officiating charge to the senior most bureaucrat to a level of confrontation with the federal government, and dragging the matter to the judiciary by the either side.
Most of the controversies arise on account of the arrogance and ego of the individuals giving rise to irrational thoughts & deeds and power indeed corrupts minds of several individuals, particularly in politics and bureaucracy. The AAP convener and some other leaders are no exception and a plethora of controversies generated by them could be explained on this basis.
Most of the readers would be aware that this is not for the first time that the AAP government is in confrontation with the Lieutenant Governor. During its first stint in 2014 too, the AAP had tabled the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Assembly without seeking his approval. Consequently, both the BJP and Congress had opposed terming this move as unconstitutional and Mr kejriwal had resigned as Chief Minister. Besides, his fourty-nine days stint was full of almost daily controversies.
Due to its peculiar position of being an erstwhile Union Territory accorded the status of a state as also the seat of the Federal Government, the national capital Delhi follows a complex governance pattern with certain key departments including the law and order put under the Lieutenant Governor , who reports to the Union home ministry, while the rest of the powers are retained with the democratically elected state government. The past governments under the Congress and BJP too had expressed their concerns of not having control over the Delhi police and some other provisions but none of them ever indulged in confrontation with the Federal Government.
Key Achievements as Claimed by AAP
The AAP party having completed 100 days in office on 25.05.2015, has enumerated the following main achievements:
The Government has reduced power tariff load on Delhi consumers by fifty per cent through a subsidy on monthly power consumption of up to 400 units.
Each household in Delhi will receive 20,000 litres of free water per month.
A continuous power supply in the capital has been assured despite acute summer by warning power Discoms of levying heavy fine if they did not guarantee this.
The Government plans to procure 10,000 tonnes of potatoes and onions through National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) in a bid to control price rise.
The Government is serious about bringing down the pollution level in Delhi and is working to tackle the pollution levels.
The Government has opened a water treatment plant at Dwarka to augment and improve quality water supply.
The government has provided relief to traders by allowing carry forward of refund of VAT and extending the date of filing R9 Form - a long-standing demand of the traders.
The Government is making frequent checks of government-run hospitals, transport buses and bus stations with a view to ensure that users get the services they deserved.
The AAP convener maintains that positive changes are taking place in the national capital and corruption level has drastically come down despite efforts (by the Central Government!) to obstruct their functioning.
For women security, marshals would be deployed onboard DTC buses where the process of installation of CCTVs has already been initiated.
The biggest achievement of the AAP government so far is checking corruption in various departments and agencies and ending the "transfer posting industry".
The government would increase the bed capacity of government hospitals from existing 10,000 to 20,000 in next two-and-half years.
Objective Analysis of Achievements
Stability and good governance are indeed key factors for a sustained and long term development and growth of any community, state or country. Winning sixty-seven out of seventy Assembly seats is no ordinary feat and achievement by a political party. It certainly represents the confidence and faith of the electorate in the leadership of Mr Kejriwal and the AAP. Now the most challenging feat before the AAP is to deliver good governance and implement their assurances given to the public as per their Election Manifesto and Action Plan. Hundred days is too short a period to evaluate the AAP’s performance and they certainly deserve one full year to work on the Action Plan towards implementation and achieving goals.
Notwithstanding above, the pronouncements the foregoing lines need to be seen in the context of their agenda to ascertain if they are heading anywhere towards achieving their professed goals:
In the context of reducing 50% power tariff and free water supply, this author earnestly feels that it is the bounden duty of the public at large to pay at least for the cost of the service they receive, barring certain unprivileged and weaker sections of the society for whom the state must render partial or full support for a given period through subsidy etc. Therefore, if a consumer is using electricity or water or cooking gas, he or she must be willing to pay for the reasonable cost of the same. Considering the geo-political and economic situation of over 1250 million Indian people, Delhi is certainly better placed than the rest of India in the context of paying the cost of such services and only a small section is in a need of the state assistance in the form of subsidy etc. to partially supplement for various services/amenities. The assessed cost of the reduced tariff on the electricity alone is over Rupees sixteen hundred crores per annum and, in the absence of the regular budget for the ensuing year, it is not clear how the government would bear this burden without affecting more important sectors like education, health & hygiene, infrastructure development etc. Such concessions and freebies may impress and lure some people but clearly not in people's interest in the long term as also beyond the comprehension of any reasonable and rational mind.
Ever since the privatization of Delhi Electricity Supply and Distribution, the power situation in Delhi has been constantly improving over the years. The power being on the concurrent list, the Central government too has been helping Delhi in the recent years to augment generation, transmission and distribution in the National Capital Region in many ways. Hence simply issuing warning letters to Discoms is hardly any achievement if a government chooses to claim so.
Pronouncements on the procurement of potato and onions to arrest growth in price rise and intentions to reduce pollution levels are good and the Delhi public should watch the performance of the government in time to come. The opening of a water treatment plant would certainly bring some comfort to Delhi on water supply front. However, such project are completed and commissioned over several years and it may not be fair for any government to take exclusive credit merely on the ground of the commissioning date. The stated checks on hospitals, buses and bus stations for their efficiency and quality service is good but a normal duty of any administration or government.
Giving relief to traders by allowing carry forward of refund of VAT and extending the date of filing R9 Form is a good measure and should be welcomed by the trader community. The measures for the women security in the metropolis and extending the facility of 10,000 more beds in hospitals are proposed action that should take place in a time bound manner. The self-proclaimed reduction in corruption level and ending ‘transfer-posting industry’ need no comments except that the latter claim sounds more like an allegation than achievement in the absence of any data or proof in support.
So where are they in the light of the AAP’s Election Manifesto and stated 70-point Action Plan? What to talk of major actionable points involving substantial financial implications, this time the AAP government have not even disclosed their intent so far during the last hundred days on legislative issues like the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill and Swaraj Bill despite overwhelming majority in the state assembly. It appears that except for some cosmetic exercises, the manifesto and action plan largely remains a non-starter so far.
The AAP government and front leaders have remained indulgent so far more in in-fighting, controversies and confrontation than any worthwhile exercise of the competent and clean governance so far. It is high time that they realize this and focus more on their agenda of governance for time bound delivery else common public have a short memory and would not take much time to antagonize, and withdraw their confidence and faith.
Better Stop Playing The Victim
In an open confrontation with the Lieutenant Governor over the war of supremacy, the AAP front leaders have promptly dragged the Central Government too with the allegation that the latter is trying to rule over the Delhi through the Lieutenant Governor denying opportunity to the elected government to work. They are forgetting that this ploy could work in their favour to some extent if they only stop fighting the constitutional head, unreasonable bureaucratic reshuffles including denial of their due or locking of their rooms.
Interestingly, the convener of the AAP himself has occasionally used the term anarchist for himself. His detractors and adversaries frequently use this term to define him. Whatever may be the truth but one thing is beyond doubt that there is a social activist turned politician who has absolutely no hesitation to use any harsh or foul words against his critics and adversaries whether in politics, media or any other sphere of life. When one is responsible to people with a commitment to democratic values, one needs to be more sober, tolerant, rational and well-meaning in his approach rather than playing the victim all the time.
AAP Should Fine Tune Its Deliverables
I recall in one of the public addresses, Mr Kejriwal stated that it is difficult to meet all promises in five years and he will be happy if even about fourty percent of this is achieved during his current stint. Paradox of the democratic governance is that the politicians make tall claims and promises to electorate during their election campaign and subsequently bureaucrats are made responsible to translate these claims and promises into the reality.
Let’s not forget that to provide any service - free or otherwise, to open any school or college, to augment health and sanitation services, roads and transport, and for that matter any other development, the government needs resources through an approved budget. In ordinary parlance, the budget is an estimate of all revenues and expenditure of the government for the given period which, at best, could be partially supplemented by instruments like the market borrowings, raising of treasury bonds, institutional and foreign loans etc. In the common jargon, we call all revenues as the tax payer’s money and any government can spend only to the extent it has raised revenue resources. If a government does not realize the cost of service and keeps taxation to naught or minimal, and resorts to freebies and subsidies as a populist measure, it remains questionable as to how it will augment resources to meet its assurances.
This is the problem of the most of the parties in India professing a populist government. Unfortunately, the AAP after giving high hopes initially is no exception to this syndrome. In such an eventuality, it is wise for them to have serious thought and deliberations over their manifesto and action plan vis-a-vis ways and means for augmenting matching resources and fine tune their goals for the five years period, where necessary, and start seriously working on it rather than indulging in in-fights, controversies and confrontation with the constitutional authorities and the federal government as has been the main highlights of the last hundred days.
As for their constant in-fights, this author is of opinion that the kind of hope the AAP and its leadership had generated to the people, it’s better for them to allow critics and dissenting voices around rather than encouraging the sycophants. It’s because the critic will point out faults and inefficiencies thus enabling opportunities to amend and improve while the sycophants only misguide to justify all actions as right. Besides, if the party leadership believes in good governance and genuine welfare of people, it’s high time that the leadership stop forthwith the rhetoric that every other major party or leader is dishonest and corrupt, and pitted against the AAP to ensure its downfall.
Incidentally, on the last occasion, I had concluded with the remarks that it remains to be seen in the time to come whether the AAP and its government would revisit its Manifesto and Action Plan to fine-tune it realistically commensurate with their resources or they will opt to go on warpath with the Central Government by putting disproportionate demands, buck and blame on the latter for own failure. Needless to mention the latter process has already commenced.