This Development Model is A Laughing Stock

We are seriously living in a time where ethics and morality are hardly accorded any value or recognition and truth is , the biggest casualty; at times,even if acknowledged, usually it is too late when a lot of damage is already done. What really matters to the most people is the victory or success, and the person who is victorious or successful is glorified, irrespective of means adopted in the process as an old adage goes - “everything is fair in love and war”. Historically, this proverb is ascribed to John Lyly’s novel “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit” of 1579” but actually it has remained true in all ages and in most situations. Though the National Capital Delhi in India is not even recognized as a full-fledged state but any development in this city invariably generates keen curiosity and interest in India and abroad, and in that context and the recent assembly elections in Delhi too are no exception.

In a bitterly fought election few days back among the three key players, Aam Admi Party (AAP), Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC or Congress), the AAP was victorious almost demolishing the other two national parties consecutively for the second time with the party head and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as leader. Another interesting feature of the outcome of elections is that while the BJP leaders are in real shock, many Congress leaders have publicly expressed great satisfaction and joy over the drubbing of the BJP rather than mulling over own total loss as is apparent from the reaction of jubilant Congress stalwarts like P. Chidambaram, recently released from Tihar jail on a conditional bail on charges of corruption, cheating and forgery among other offences in the INX Media case. He said, “AAP won, bluff and bluster lost. The people of Delhi, who are from all parts of India, have defeated the polarizing, divisive and dangerous agenda of the BJP. I salute the people of Delhi…”

The left-centric and leftist political parties including Congress, their friendly media and liberal/intellectuals have wasted no time in proclaiming the AAP’s success as the victory of development politics over the hate politics of the communal forces in India, an obvious reference to the BJP and RSS. The media is abuzz with blogs, statements and tweets projecting AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal as new poster boy of the Indian politics and a symbol of development and welfare of the common man with many opposition stalwarts endorsing his dvelopment model. It may be interesting to have a detailed analysis with the merits and demerits of the phenomenal rise of the AAP in Delhi and its possible implications on India’s future socio-political and economic prospects but in this piece the author intends to have a quick evaluation of the much hyped victory and the development model of the AAP.

Development Model of AAP

In 2015, the AAP manifesto had seventy actionable points reflecting the vision and development agenda for the next five years. Some of the more important ones were employment, pollution-control, quality education and excellent healthcare to all citizens, safety for women, augmentation of infrastructure in terms of better and more roads, public transport and traffic system, clean Yamuna with beautiful river bank, Jan Lokpal Bill, Swaraj Bill, affordable electricity and clean drinking water, providing round the clock improved essential services, and so on. Some of the quantified promises included creation of 20 colleges, 500 new schools, 2,00,000 public toilets, 900 new Primary Health Centres, 30, 000 additional beds in Delhi hospitals, 47 new fast-track courts for speedy justice, free Wi-Fi across Delhi (11,000 stations), at least 5,000 new buses in Delhi fleet, 8 lakhs jobs in five years and regularization of all contractual posts, and so on so forth.

Stability and good governance are indeed key factors for the sustained and long term development and progress of any community, state or country. Equally important is that any political party should make only those measurable promises which are manageable and possible to implement in a given time frame. While it will be interesting to separately analyze in detail the promises made and actual position thereagainst but in the current piece, I propose to undertake only education, healthcare, electricity, water and WiFi in Delhi because these are much hyped areas of development and the AAP government in Delhi has often claimed tremendous success achieved in these areas. However, if we consider any other quantitative target such as 8 lakh jobs, 47 new fast track courts, 5000 new buses, 2 lakh public toilets; they have either remained non-starter or only some symbolic work done without any outcome during the last 6-7 months to claim progress. Similarly, clean Yamuna and its beatification work did not materialize; public transport, traffic and pollution has only further deteriorated; and Jan Lokpal Bill and Swaraj Bill has remained a distant dream.

1) Education

Education is one segment where the AAP leadership and party workers constantly claim tall achievements, credit for the same is particularly accorded to the Dy CM Manish Sisodia. The party had promised 20 new colleges and 500 new schools for augmenting facilities and quality education. The government has certainly made incremental education budget and spent considerable amount of money to revamp infrastructure and construction of additional classrooms in the existing schools. Different reports suggest addition of new classroom numbers from 8,000 to 20,000; however, such claims have largely remain unverified, besides it poses another dimension of the hiring of commensurate number of teachers and non-teaching staff, position on which is absolutely vague.

Notwithstanding, the AAP government appears satisfied that the work done in the existing schools is equivalent to 500 schools. Some independent opinion and the government teachers’ association feedback suggests that the new rooms have been constructed without proper planning and assessment in the existing schools while many schools still run under the temporary tin sheds. With a view to improve the quality of teaching, the government also sent some teachers and principals for short training to the Cambridge University, IIMs, and so on. Analysts and experts are, however, skeptic about usefulness of such training and the tall claims made by the government in the context of the quality of education. This skepticism indeed appears understandable as the idea of exposure in Cambridge may be fascinating but how far it would be relevant in the Indian schooling education remains a debatable issue. Position on other promises is as under:

  • Though spending on education has been increased and revamping of infrastructure done, full time faculty for schools has not been hired as promised to improve the quality of education.
  • Of the 20 new colleges promised, none has come up. The AAP government, however, claims the Delhi Pharmaceutical University to their credit, which was passed by the Government of Delhi in 2008 and it gates were finally opened in 2015 for the specialized education.
  • Of the 500 schools promised, the AAP government claims to have opened 31 new schools as per a recent report of India Today.
  • Transparency in school admission in Delhi was another commitment. Reportedly, the AAP government has now shelved its plan of centralized nursery admissions citing it impractical.

2) Healthcare

According to the AAP government, the education and healthcare are their top priorities, Accordingly, the party had promised excellent health to Delhi people by creating 900 primary health centres, 30,000 additional beds in hospitals and 2,00,000 public toilets besides augmenting several existing facilities in the government hospitals. Reportedly, the government has so far set up 158 Mohalla Clinics which function as the primary health centres at different locations across the city. Mostly, these clinics are staffed with one doctor, pharmacist and clinic assistant each and are operating in the porta-cabins or rented premises. As the set up itself would suggest it provides basic medical care for common illnesses like fever, diarrhea, skin problems, respiratory problems, first aid for injuries and burns, dressing and management of minor wounds and referral services. As claimed by AAP ministers, the diagnosis, medicines and tests are all free of cost in Mohalla Clinics and it also allows over 200 types of tests by the empanelled laboratories. Then the party also has tall claims and grand design for future but there is no point in brooding over what has not been done in five years.

  • The ad hoc arrangement of 158 Mohalla Clinics against planned 900 primary health centres (PHCs) cannot be treated at par with the normal concept of PHCs but it is useful for the lower income group and other residents, particularly working in the unorganized sector, for the treatment of common diseases and ailments.
  • According to the report of Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC), a BJP think tank, only 394 beds in the state-run hospitals have been created in place of 30,000 beds promised before the 2015 assembly elections.

In their aggressive publicity campaigns, the AAP has claimed of creating state of the art medical facilities, many more Mohalla Clinics, polyclinics and about 14,000 beds by 2023 but here we are concerned with health facilities they committed and created during the previous five years regime. Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare too presents a gloomy picture of what the AAP claimed and what has been actually delivered. Even if we ignore the Union Minister’s version as politically motivated, it is true that the few Mohalla Clinics opened so far have been marred with controversies like limited test facilities against promised, reluctant doctors due to payment issues, timings, heavy rush of patients, insufficient medical staff & long queues, restrictive free medicine list and touts freely operating to exploit patients. On one hand the AAP government has aggressively showcased these clinics as a path-breaking achievement garnering appreciation from UN Secretary General, the party has deliberately stalled and not implemented Centre’s health scheme “Ayushman Bharat” for the poor and low income group people in Delhi.

3) Electricity and Water

In fact, free electricity and water has been main poll plank which was promptly fulfilled by the AAP in the first stint of 49 days in 2013 itself that continued after the AAP again came in power in 2015. Under this scheme, the government subsidized power tariff to bring it to almost half, and at the same time the Distribution companies were not allowed to increase tariff. Although the tariff of the electricity is decided by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, which is an independent body, but the government is able to influence it on most occasions for obvious reasons. The government had also almost simultaneously made notification for the promised free 20,000 litres of water per month to every household in Delhi. So far the government’s sop of 50% subsidy on power tariffs for those who consume up to 400 units and free water has been the most popular and successful mantras to keep continuing a large segment of electorate in AAP’s net. The government promised for adequate street lighting to light up all the dark spots but the compliance has not been reported.

  • The government promise of introducing competition among the distribution companies to give an option to consumers in Delhi to choose electricity provider has remained a non-starter.
  • The government’s promise to have Delhi’s own power generating station is not actioned.
  • Delhi to be made a solar city remains a non-starter and dream.
  • The promise of promoting rainwater harvesting in Delhi fulfilled by issuing instructions to make it mandatory in the government offices; no compliance or follow up thereafter.
  • Revival of Yamuna: it continues to stagnate without any progress.
  • The government identified water bodies in Delhi to clean and maintain, but all the major lakes are still deteriorating and dying a slow death without any action.

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) released a study in November 2019, which suggested that Delhi’s water was “the most unsafe tap water” among 21 state capitals. This observation was based on the tested samples for 28 of its 48 parameters for piped drinking water. Following a raging controversy, after initial rebuttal, the Chief Minister of Delhi admitted that the quality of water was indeed unsatisfactory in some areas. According to reports, currently about 83% households have piped water supply and for the remaining the Delhi Jal Board deploys tankers for the water supply. A large number of households do not have meters and there are numerous complaints from the residents of unpiped section about non-supply and/or purchase at exorbitant charges from the water mafia. The AAP has not been able to address the aforesaid problems during the last five years. Also the free availability of water is making Delhites careless about the need to conserve it.

4) WiFi Coverage

The party had promised in 2015 to turn Delhi into a free WiFi zone but no progress was visible till late 2019. Now just before completion of the government full five year term, CM Arvind Kejriwal announced launch of free WiFi hotspots scheme on 16 December 2019. This was one of the key poll promises of the 70-point manifesto and the government claimed that 100 WiFi stations have been launched (against 11,000 stations promised). While launching WiFi, CM Kejriwal also claimed that with this launch, the last promise of AAP’s manifesto has also been fulfilled.

In a nutshell, the much hyped “development model” of the AAP caters for free electricity and water all households, free transport to all women just before the elections, and immediate short term measures in eduction and healthcare with an eye on the low-income group and poor people in Delhi that the entire opposition at the national level is now talking about. While the alleged developments have been simultaneously aggressively showcased worldwide by the AAP, except for the freebies of electricity tariff and water, the ad hoc measures taken in healthcare, education and WiFi have remained more a subject publicity than any real success besides being marred with controversies and failures. They constructed more classrooms in lieu of new schools, improved furniture and amenities without ensuring commensurate teaching and non-teaching staff; opened ad hoc clinics with skeleton staff and some medicines/tests in porta-cabins or hired rooms; and even creating a few WiFi stations just 2 months before the assembly election appears more of a publicity stunt than any real application of use for the Delhites.

Needless to mention in a developing country like India, Delhi being the seat of Central Government is already much pampered city and also a reason why its population grew from about 4 million in 1971 to nearly 20 million now, with approximately 14.5 million voters, due to a large scale migration from other states. Considering the geo-political and economic considerations, Delhi is already much better placed on various livable parameters compared to the rest of India with the highest per capita income, infrastructure and social welfare schemes. So it is not surprising that people are now seeking opportunity in consumerism and freebies offered, and the AAP has caught their pulse so well exploiting it to fullest extent for own political ambitions. Unfortunately, this culture of consumerism and freebies is escalating like a viral disease in other parts and the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee has already announced her intent to supply free electricity in her state and similar demands in states like Punjab and Maharashtra also raised.

Controversies Associated with AAP

No other political party with a small cadre and strength has invited as much controversies as the AAP in a short duration since its formal launch in November 2012. The party was a product of "India Against Corruption" movement led by Anna Hazare demanding Jan Lokpal; ever since Centre and many state governments have introduced Jan Lokpal but the very idea of Jan Lokpal remains illusive in Delhi with the ruling  AAP constantly blaming Centre for all failures. During initial years while frequently causing chaos in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal himself felt proud in declaring “I am an anarchist” and the last five years of AAP rule in Delhi have been marred with constant in-fighting and controversies within the party, and conflicts and showdown with the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi and Central Government on the issues like transfer and postings, jurisdiction, corruption and criminal charges against the ministers and legislatures, disproportionate expenditure on publicity within and outside Delhi, court cases involving Kejriwal and ministers, and disastrous results in an endeavor to expand the party in other states. Some of such instances are listed below:

  • Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is among the avid foul-mouthed politicians, perhaps only other who could match him is Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal. He has at least four defamation cases against him and close associates including a criminal defamation case: The latter case filed by the former Finance Minister has been closed after Kejriwal rendered an unconditional apology. He has been the most vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi except the last six months of his five years term in Delhi and in a zeal to oppose him, he has made statements compromising the national interests.
  • Other founder members of the AAP such as Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Kumar, Ajit Jha, Kumar Vishwas, Shazia Ilmi, Kapil Mishra, and so on, were either expelled or left the party their own due to inner conflict and ideological differences with Arvind Kejriwal during the last five years.
  • Many AAP ministers and legislatures are facing multiple probes from the Delhi Police, Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch, CBI, Income Tax, Punjab Police and the Election Commission on a range of civil and criminal charges including cheating, corruption, domestic violence and graft charges. The Delhi government’s own anti-corruption branch is investigating graft charges against some members of AAP. At least 14 AAP MLAs were arrested earlier on allegations such as rape, forgery, molestation and abetment to suicide in the past.
  • According to ADR analysis, 38 of 63 elected AAP MLAs have criminal record and cases pending against them; of which, 33 are of serious nature such as attempt to murder, rape, extortion, cheating, assault on woman to violate her modesty, and so on. This is particularly relevant in the case of AAP because the party was raised in the name of fighting corruption and it still boasts of giving crime and corruption free clean administration.
  • CM Arvind Kejriwal has constant conflict and showdown with Lieutenant Governor of Delhi on plethora of issues such as appointment and posting of officers, illegal decisions such as making MLA Amanatullah Khan Chairman of Delhi WAQF Board and Krishna Saini as Chairman DERC.
  • Of the Kejriwal's cabinet comprising of just 6 ministers, 4 of them viz. Asim Ahmed, Sandeep Kumar, Jitender Singh Tomar and Kapil Mishra were sacked under various charges. Asim Ahmed was booked on bribery charge; Jitendra Tomar arrested for forging his education degree; Sandeep Kumar arrested for the alleged rape; Amanatullah Khan was booked by CBI for irregularities in operation and job hiring at the Delhi Waqf Board;
  • 21 AAP MLAs were investigated for appointed as parliamentary secretaries with allegations of holding office of profit.

The aforesaid controversies, conflict, criminal and corrupt practices are only illustrative and not comprehensive. Also all such events are well documented and readily available in public domain with no such precedence and parallel in such a short time in the history of political parties in India. It is often said that most of the Indians are highly emotive and passionate but have a short memory of the misdemeanour committed or good work done by politicians and celebrities. But then why expect wisdom or blame the common man when many intellectuals and journalists, who are ordinarily expected to be neutral, rational and fair, also suffer with this loss of memory having tainted vision and lopsided approach.

Role of Indian English Media and Intellectuals

With the boom of the information technolgy, the role of the electronic and print media has increasingly become very important not only for information dissemination but also building and selling narratives to influence people both within and outside the country. Consequently, a large section of the English media, mostly print and some electronic media, evolved and prospered in tandem with the decades of dominance of a particular ruling dispensation, ideology and outlook including on significant themes like democracy and secularism. In the changed socio-political scenario, the way many journalists and author/intellectuals of this genre report developments, build narratives and engage in diatribe while analysing and presenting events, it compels some rational and neutral minds to ponder if they are actually for the India or against it. For instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government at Centre had started and implemented more than two dozen long-term developmental schemes and programmes making massive investment with nationwide implication without any distinction on the caste, religion or region of beneficiaries during the last 5 years but these people don't deem it necessary even to make a reference of these developments.

Even in the second stint after getting a massive popular mandate in May, 2019 parliamentary elections, the goverment has planned and engaged in development work with ambitious targets in sectors/segments like Urban and Rural Housing, piped and safe drinking water supply in urban and rural areas, massive infrastructure develoment in terms of national highways, roads, bridges and rural connectivity,  new airports, metro and railways network, coastal developmemt, multi-pronged programmes on inclusive rural development, health and technical education infrastructure, long term strategic planning and investment for internal and external security, and so on. Notwithstanding, this section of media and intellectuals are unable to see or appreciate any of these developments; instead, they find free electricity/water and some ad hoc health and education measures taken by the 'secularist' Kejriwal government in Delhi as "ideal development model" suggesting rest of India to emulate it to oust the 'communal' Modi led BJP at the Centre and States.

For instance, a Mumbai based accomplished writer and columnist Shobhaa De, rejoicing the victory of the AAP and their development mantra of "freebies", tells in a diatribe the leadership of the BJP and Congress as well to listen to people or else be ready to receive "thappad (slap)" using rather a crude language to describe how the AAP's jhadoo (broom, the election symbol) swept all the kachra (garbage) (a reference to national parties BJP and Congress!) out of the way to have a resounding victory, especially justifying and glorifying Kejriwal and his well known antics.Yet another author and journalist Sagarika Ghose, who is fond of writing under a fancy column "Bloody Mary" has come up with a blog "...the cultural Hindu defeated the political Hindu". As Prime Minister Modi, BJP, RSS, Hindus and Hindutva remain favourite target in many of her blogs, with she so often out to prove how they are pursuing hateful agenda against the so innocent and peaceful Indian Muslims and thereby destroying democratic and secular India. In her recent blog, she has glorified Kejriwal as Hanuman Bhakt (devotee) and a hardcore nationalist; she raises a question if the nationalist Kejriwal has let down secularism and given up the fight against hate and then she answers it herself, "No, in fact in Delhi 2020, the cultural Hindu has defeated the political Hindu"; then goes on with her familiar diatribe against PM Modi and his party with an unprecedented bestowal of appreciation and laurel for Kejriwal.

Ordinarily, the journalists are expected to be neutral and dispassionate in reporting and authors are expected to be rational, logical and balanced in writing. However, yet another senior and well-known journalist and anchor representing Delhi's Lutyens elites was so thrilled and overjoyed with the trending Delhi poll outcome on 11 February that he started celebrating it with own dance performance in the news room itself in full view to the national audience. In Indian democracy, the Constitution has provided certain fundamental rights to citizens including the "freedom of speech and expression". Though these rights come with certain caveats and fundamental duties but in Indian democracy everyone including media and judiciary is stretching it to their own interpretation and convenience. In the context of building and selling narratives, threatened by Islamists and living in India, the Bangladeshi Taslima Nasreen's recent tweet in some other context is so relevant - "Burkawalis (veiled) are Impowered, War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom, and Ignorance is Strength." A narrative is built in such a manner by the repeat untruth that it starts appearing as the truth. This also reminds me a fable of "Brahmin and Three Rogues" from the ancient Indian Sanskrit treatise "Panchatantra" that depicted how three crooks bullied a holy man to rob him of his sacrificial goat by convincing that he was actually carrying a shape shifting goblin, thereby deriving similar moral lesson.

Communalization of Poll Campaign

The country has seen massive protests over both CAA and NRC for two months. Initial phase was marred with wide spread arson, violence and anti-national slogans on streets; then it was followed by localized protests, leaving it women and children to spearhead it in vantage areas of cities with men basically providing logistics and protethereby ctive umbrella. Soon Shaheen Bagh in Southeast Delhi became the epicenter and icon of such protests with tactical siege of a trunk route connecting Delhi with Noida, thereby putting lakhs of daily commuters in inconvenience. In this area with significant population of Muslims, they effectively ensured that the sit-in dharna remains in constant news with frequent visit of political leaders and celebrities. The AAP has supported the anti-CAA-NRC movement with its Muslim legislature Amanatullah Khan of the assembly segment taking charge of overt and covert support to the crowd and organizers, respectively; however, the top leadership rendered a tactical support by staying away from the venue and constantly attacking the Centre for its inability to clear the protest site.

All along the poll campaign, the BJP leaders focused against the Shaheen Bagh protests and inconvenience caused to commuters while the AAP kept daring the home minister of country to visit the place and negotiate with the protesters to end it. On one hand, the National Flag and copy of the Constitution was displayed at the protest venue, on the other hand, provocative slogans against BJP and RSS, abuse to prime minister and home minister (by name), rhetoric to freeing Kashmir and breaking India also continued at the protest venue. Some young leaders of BJP too reacted angrily in their public meetings so much so that the Election Commission was constrained to take cognizance and reprimand such leaders. Hence some political analysts and poll pandits have started talking of the “reverse polarization” ascribing it to angry outburst of BJP leaders harming their own party poll prospects but they ignore a plain and simple historical truth that the Muslim electorate has never supported BJP and they always vote en mass as a community in favour or against any candidate.

In the above context, notwithstanding the fact that the one-time Vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia and former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, an erstwhile adversary turned admirer of Arvind Kejriwal, supports the anti-CAA movement at Jamia and the women of Shaheen Bagh, recently in an interview with a news media group stated that there was a vacuum not just in Shaheen Bagh but an enormous vacuum in Muslim leadership overall as they need literate and educated Muslim leadership, and not muftis as their leaders. His concluding statement is cited here: “The greatest improvement, because of the CAA agitation, is that Muslims understand there is nothing in wrong in singing Vande Mataram. There is pride to bowing to your mother. And this country is our mother. Let’s also never forget that India is a secular country because 85% are Hindu.” Besides being administrator/politician, Jung is both a Muslim educationist and intellectual too, and his remarks on “Vande Mataram” and “Hindus” are significant with a little amend that the percentage of Hindus has gone down to 79.8% as per 2011 Census.

The Real Game Changer: Development or Freebies

The opposition parties have given credit to the development agenda of Kejriwal led AAP for its massive victory in the assembly elections and some of them have even shown intent to copy it in other states. But is it really so? Only about a few months back during Lok Sabha elections in May 2019, the BJP had won all the seven parliamentary seats of Delhi with even more impressive margin of 56.86% (than AAP’s current 53.57% now) of the total valid votes as against only 18.20% in favour of the AAP. Development is neither ephemeral nor it is achievable in a few days or months; instead, it requires a long term vision, investment and sustained efforts for a considerably long period. Actually, Two obvious key factors that have phenomenal influence over the poll outcome in favour of Kejriwal led AAP are 1) significant freebies and concessions in the nick of time and 2) ability to cultivate target groups through propaganda campaign.

(A) Freebies and Concessions

(1) In the previous stint, the AAP government had subsidized electricity tariff to bring it to almost half the actual charges. In August 2019, Arvind Kejriwal announced a major concession to all Delhi consumers irrespective of economic status of free electricity upto 200 units, another 50% concession from 201 to 400 units and waiver of fixed charges upto 5 KVA domestic load. Consequently, it was a real pleasant surprise for a sizeable segment of consumers receiving monthly bills with “Zero” charges and significant relief to most others with highly reduced bill charges. He also assured Delhites to continue free water supply hitherto fore for the next five years.

(2) With effect from 29 October (Bhaiduj festival) 2019, bus travel in the DTC and cluster buses for women was made free, though the similar move for free ride in Delhi Metro could not be effected. This populist measure was taken despite current DTC losses of nearly Rs 20,000 million (Estimated Rs 1750.37 crore as per the Delhi's Economic Survey 2018-19) and no addition in the fleet during the last five years against promised 5,000 new buses.

(3) WiFi hotspots were launched on 16 December 2019 at few locations proclaiming another free facility and great achievement of the party.

(4) Among many populist schemes, the AAP has announced Doorstep Service Delivery (DSD) of highly subsidized rations and free pilgrimage to 10 lakh senior citizens of Delhi.

(B) Cultivating Target Electorate Groups

(1) According to the 2011 census, Delhi had approximately 13% Muslim population; while the fresh census exercise would reveal accurate position in 2021 but by a rough estimate it would be not less than 15% of the total population now and currently five of 70 assembly segments have a Muslim population of 40% or more. Traditionally, they used to vote en mass for the Congress in the past but almost entire population has now shifted in favour of the AAP as is also apparent from the fact that the former received only about 4% of the total valid vote in the current assembly elections.

(2) According to the Economic Survey of Delhi Government 2018-19, about 1.7 million people were staying in slums and jhuggi-jhopri (JJ) colonies in a survey conducted in 2014. Considering the constant in-migration of un-skilled workers, this figure is around 2.0 million by now. Then despite the fact that the Central government had recently announced regularization of about 1,700 unauthorized colonies in Delhi with 4.0 million population, this is another target group which along with the JJ colonies has accrued maximum attention and benefits on account of the AAP sponsored freebies and concessions such as Rs 10 million to the families of safai worker died while working.

From rendering support to the community agitating with illegitimate demands of withdrawal of CAA, NRC and NPR to freebies and populist concessions at the cost of the tax-payers’ money, the AAP systematically targeted and cultivated about 40-45% electorate in favour.

While the opposition blames BJP for polarizing Delhi electorate on communal lines and, also, that their communal card failed against the development agenda of the AAP and its fruits delivered in real terms; however, few factual illustrations given below narrate a different story.

  • Deputy CM Manish Sisodia has been all along projected as the Development-man of the AAP, particularly in the context of education, barely managed to win his Patparganj assembly seat by about 3,000 votes after constantly trailing behind his BJP rival. Similarly, CM Arvind Kejriwal won his New Delhi seat by a margin of just about 21,000 votes.
  • In contrast, Amanatullah Khan, one of the alleged key persons and architect of the Shaheen Bagh protests, won his Okhla (Southeast Delhi) seat by a margin of 70,000 votes and yet another Muslim candidate Shoaib Iqbal from Matia Mahal constituency in Chandni Chowk (Old Delhi) won by over 50,000 garnering 76% of valid votes. In fact, all five candidates fielded by the AAP won with fairly high margin compared to other successful AAP candidate.

Aforesaid illustrations are sufficed to conclude that the much hyped development by AAP did not have any noticeable effect. As for the alleged polarization of communities, it is clear that Hindus were neither polarized as electorate nor picked up communal card, even if supposedly played by some BJP campaigners. On the other hand, the Muslim voters were completely polarized and voted en mass in favour of the AAP candidates ignoring their traditional party, the Congress. This is also vindicated from the media reports and the fact that the average polling in Delhi was around 62% but all the Muslim dominated constituencies had much high turn of voters about 70% or above. In fact, the real game changer has been the August 2019 implementation of free electricity and water to all Delhi households, a change from the 50% relief in vogue since 2015, which combined with other aforesaid factors heavily turned the tide in favour of the AAP in Delhi assembly elections.

Few Daunting & Unnerving Thoughts

So this is the much hyped development model of the AAP that the opposition parties are now talking about to eliminate the common enemies BJP and RSS from the country duly endorsed by their friendly media and neo-social scientists/liberals/intellectuals. West Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee and some others have already expressed their desire to provide free electricity to the users in their states. It’s not that all other people are in favour of freebies; in fact, many of them mostly from the middle and upper-middle class question freebies as a bad precedent which is not possible without compromising real development and is likely to cause serious class struggle, tension and unrest in future.

Common man appears to have little knowledge and short memory about the real development and growth. Even a cursory glimpse on the AAP manifesto of 2015 will expose their lackluster vision and dismal performance on almost all substantive development agenda items such as establishing new schools and colleges, the primary health centres as per norms, infrastructure, roads, flyovers and introduction new buses, and so on; but the freebies on electricity, water to all and now free transport to women, which provided immediate relief to users, plus some ad hoc measures in the field of education and healthcare, have overshadowed all other developmental issues. Instead of just encouraging the consumer culture and freebies, the Delhi government should have focused on new long-term projects and their completion as these short term measures in education and healthcare will neither last for long nor improve the quality of life in real terms.

The real face and intent of the AAP could be understood with a simple illustration. The Mohalla clinics introduced by the AAP are providing routine healthcare mostly to poor and low income category people in Delhi and as already admitted by them the existing ones are inadequate and about 1,000 such clinics are needed. The Central government has also implemented a National Health Protection Scheme (Ayushman Bharat), giving coverage to about 50 crore beneficiaries nationwide with support upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for the secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. The two schemes could co-exist together taking care of routine and serious ailments of the target population respectively in Delhi but the AAP refused to implement it on the plea about sufficiency of their own measures. It is not difficult to fathom whether the AAP has denied the central scheme for the political consideration or they are indeed confident about the effectiveness of own ad hoc measures.

Ideally, the subsidy, if any, should be extended to the weaker sections who can ill-afford or unable to afford the requisite service. In fact, the past Delhi Congress government had already provided partial subsidy to Delhi users upto 100 units and free electricity connection with subsidized consumption were provided to the BPL (below poverty line) category families under a Central Government sponsored scheme but the Kejriwal government has taken the populist measure of free electricity to a new height irrespective of users' economic status. Obviously, they have done all this on sheer political consideration, which will have a rolling-ball effect on other bigger states with grave implications and disastrous results. What they have done in Delhi so far is not development but endorsement and escalation of the consumerism and freebie culture. I am afraid if it may appear harsh but this development model is a laughing stock and a cruel mockery of the democracy and secularism.


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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