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An uphill climb for Kejriwal

An uphill climb for Kejriwal
What is common between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal? Apart from being the central figures of prominent personality cults, both came to power promising the moon and beyond. They also happen to have total control of their respective parties and governments. However, both are now struggling to fulfill the huge expectations they had created. 
What’s worse both are being seen as control freaks.  Modi seized power with the help of the slogan of “Achche Din” and Kejriwal captured Delhi with the slogan of “Paanch Saal Kejriwal”. Judging the Modi government in one year or the state of Delhi in 100 days of Kejriwal may not be fair, as they have been elected for full five-year terms. It’s safe to say that these two leaders are under microscopic scrutiny. 

It must be remembered that Kejriwal was the first to put a roadblock to the rampaging Modi juggernaut. The natural question which arises out of this is whether his government is doing the right thing by adopting a scorched earth policy? He took oath as chief minister on the Valentine’s Day in February and if anyone expected the honeymoon to last at least six months, it did not happen. The party’s earlier innings was marked by sit-ins, conflicts with public utilities providers and an ugly power struggle with the Centre. From day one in his current term, Kejriwal has been surrounded by controversies, bickering and infighting, personal health problems, and a visibly public spat with the Lieutenant Governor and the Centre. This is sad given that his massive electoral mandate was for governance and not for drama and confrontation. 

What has AAP achieved in the past 100 days? There have been earnest efforts to fulfill some of the election promises it had made in the run-up to the elections. Kejriwal has also set up a Delhi dialogue commission. To mark the completion of its 50 days in power he revived the 1031 helpline to help tackle corruption. Eleven days after forming the government he delivered the big-ticket election promises of cheaper water and power. He has opened up the formulation of the Delhi budget in 11 select constituencies. 

The AAP government has also eased registration norms for e-rickshaws drivers, promised the revision of auto fares every April i.e. beginning of every financial year, amended the VAT to help the traders and given a Rs 50,000 per hectare compensation to the farmers  affected by unseasonal rains – the highest ever by any government in the country. The AAP government has also decided to form its own education board as well as revamp education act. It has successfully used the ESMA to deal with the DTC strike as well agitation by the government doctors. 

However, these are overshadowed by the negative impact of some of the AAP government’s controversial moves. The chief minister has practically taken on almost every section of the administration like the Lt Governor, bureaucracy, police, media, Central government, Delhi municipal corporations, the BJP, Congress and dissidents in his own party.

Kejriwal should realise that the art of governance is quite delicate and that he faces many challenges. The first is about dealing with the Centre. Is it going to be a long fight at the end of which he wins a pyrrhic victory or will he give up his confrontational tactics for the greater good? When he took over the reins of Delhi again, he was conciliatory and he promised that he would not take a confrontational path. The most noticeable thing in the past 100 days was his power tussle with Lt. Governor Jung over the appointments, postings and transfers of senior IAS officers. Now the Delhi Assembly wants to impeach the Lt Governor! The skirmishes with the Centre are likely to continue in the months ahead. The crisis continues but perhaps learning from the mistakes of the past, deputy chief minister Sisodia claims the AAP government would not quit midterm. 

Kejriwal’s foremost challenge is getting full Statehood for Delhi which currently exists in the twilight zone between a city and a full-fledged State. Previous incumbents had demanded full statehood too. However, going by the current mood at the Centre this may not happen. So the fight is going to be long and ugly. 

The immediate challenge is the blistering summer months ahead of Delhi. It will be difficult to meet the demand for water and power consumption. Getting water from Haryana is going to be a big issue. The impending power tariff hike is again a pragmatic check on the government’s populist policies. The <g data-gr-id="67">fund</g> shortage of the civic agencies and disruption of sanitation services need to be addressed as well. Above all, Kejriwal has to fulfill his long-standing promise of passing the Jan Lokpal Bill and Swaraj Bill for which he gave up power last time. 

Having won an overwhelming landslide majority in the Assembly, the party now needs to hit the ground running and fulfill its poll promises – many of them which happen to be freebies. There are some basic promises in the AAP manifesto like building 20 new colleges, 500 new government schools, 2,00,000 public toilets, creating eight lakh jobs in the next five years, reducing pollution, <g data-gr-id="69">regularising</g> contractual posts, controlling price rise and so on. How will the AAP government find resources to walk the talk?

 Since Kejriwal derives his strength from the party, he should put an end to factional fights and develop a second line of leadership in Delhi and in other states like Punjab where he has 4 MPs. Punjab goes to the polls in 2017. Above all the AAP needs to maintain its clean image and should resolve the internal conflicts as soon as possible, besides directing all their energies towards ensuring better governance. To succinctly summarize, Kejriwal has a long way to go if he does not want to disappoint the people who voted for AAP with great hope and expectations. This is only the beginning of his term and he still has a chance to prove his leadership credentials. IPA
Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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