August 14, 2015 4:58:15 pm
Exactly six months ago to this day, Arvind Kejriwal began his second innings as a chief minister after he had resigned from the post the year before. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had wiped out the Congress and BJP in Delhi, winning a staggering 67 of 70 seats – the largest ever margin in Delhi’s electoral history. In his speech at the Ram Lila Maidan on February 14, Kejriwal was more measured, suggesting he had learnt his lessons from his last stint. He spoke of better governance, warned his legislators of hubris and of course, promised to rid Delhi of corruption. Kejriwal kept no cabinet portfolios, instead he named long-time confidant Manish Sisodia as his deputy. Kejriwal would only oversee government functioning and work towards administrative reforms. For a party that was two years old, a dream had come true.
The dream has wavered since that grand celebration. Whether it was the acrimonious exit of AAP companions Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav or the constant run-ins with the central government or Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. In the lull between, the government made water and power cheaper and passed its first budget – increased spending on education and health.
It took only days for the AAP government to deliver their biggest poll promise – cheaper power and water. Akin to the 49-day government in 2013, power bills were slashed by 50 per cent for consumption up to 400 units and water supplied free upto 20,000 litres. Free wi-fi across Delhi – another big ticket promise – is underway and likely to be completed before the year ends. The government also passed its first budget that included an experimental public consultation component. The AAP government is highly accessible to the public through extensive public meetings and outreach programmes.
The AAP has had little time for diplomacy in its relations with the central government on appointments and schemes or with Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. Kejriwal and Jung have locked horns over almost every policy initiative be it the appointment of the chief of the anti-corruption branch (ACB) or the Delhi Commission for Women, the revision of circle rates or even the appointment of the home secretary. For a while, Delhi functioned with two home secretaries and still works with two ACB chiefs. The government’s anti-corruption agenda has been largely a non-performer, despite a general feeling among the public that corruption has reduced. While a corruption hotline exists, the ACB in six months has begun investigations into 13 cases and arrested 41 persons, many in the lowest rung of government service.
In this brief time, three AAPs legislators have been arrested on charges that vary from fraud to assault. One of them, Jitendra Tomar, was a cabinet minister who Kejriwal had to drop. The party claimed Tomar had lied to them about his educational qualifications which the Delhi police claim are fake. Early into the new government the AAP lost a fair share of its political capital with the protracted and ignominious expulsion of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. The duo fell out with Kejriwal over the party’s direction and tactics and two weeks after a pitched public battle that saw all of them dragged through the mud, Kejriwal used his brute majority in the party’s national council in March.
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