Millennium Post

Burden of expectations

Two decades ago when the National Front government led by V P Singh came to power I had an interesting conversation with the then finance minister Madhu Dandavate. He was cribbing about finding finances to waive off the Rs 10,000-crore farmers’ loan promised before the elections. When I asked him why did they promise things they could not deliver, the finance minister sheepishly admitted that they never thought they would come to power.

 Now we have the Aam Aadmi Party facing a similar situation, after a stunning victory and tall promises. No doubt the party has captured the imagination of the people of Delhi. While there is all round goodwill for him, the new chief minister has many challenges and so does his infant party, which has shaken the big national parties, like the Congress and the BJP.

 Politics may change in the local and national scene after the AAP victory this month, which has shown that elections can be won without money or name and fame. The Congress, which has offered unconditional support, was forced to take this decision, as it did not want to be seen as stopping the formation of the AAP government. Secondly, the Congress hopes that after capturing power Kejriwal might look for a bigger national role and his first target would be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Thirdly and more importantly none of the Congress candidates who lost is prepared to face elections so soon.

As for the faction ridden BJP, some MLAs think that the party should have formed the government, having emerged as the single largest party. Sitting in the opposition was not a wise decision they argue. Moreover, the Modi supporters are worried that Kejriwal would pose a threat to Modi, as the Delhi chief minister is as good a communicator as Modi besides his secular credentials. The BJP, shaken by the AAP victory, is trying to change its poll strategy. The other parties too have to fall in line sooner or later. The debatable question is whether the AAP can deliver. This is why the Congress and the BJP were keen to let him form the government expecting he would fail in fulfilling his promises.

Kejriwal is playing a shrewd political game trying to change the rules of politics. He will certainly have some initial advantages. For one thing the honeymoon period will last longer as people have put a lot of faith in him saying, ‘give him a chance’ and may forgive the AAP for the initial mistakes. Therefore neither the Congress nor the BJP would think of putting spokes on his new initiatives, at least for the next six months.

Secondly, if the present mood continues, the AAP is in an advantageous position and might get a few seats in other states in the 2014 polls as Kejriwal is already thinking of broad-basing the AAP.

 Thirdly while dooms of prophets predict that Kejriwal will fail there are indications the bureaucracy might help the new chief minister.  Did not New Delhi constituency where most government servants live vote for Kejriwal defeating the sitting chief minister Sheila Dixit?

Fourthly, AAP could begin in the next few days with the passage of the Jan Local bill as the mood in the country is against corruption and the Congress and the BJP cannot stall it for long.

 However, Kejriwal has to be cautious, as he is no longer an activist but heading the system that he wants to change. Several confrontationists before him had realised this the hard way like the AGP in Assam, Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. All these parties were voted to power with great expectations. Will Kejriwal become a politician chief minister or continue to be a confrontationist?

Secondly, for all his tall talk, Delhi has not got a full statehood and still law and order and other powers are vested in the centre. He too would face the same music just as Sheila Dikshit did earlier. For instance can he force the centre give Delhi full statehood?

Thirdly, Kejriwal has sold the dream of a corruption-free state. Prior to the Assembly election, the AAP promised that it would investigate the various corruption charges leveled against the predecessor government including the 2010 Commonwealth Games-related projects. Could he begin his political life with a vendetta politics?

Among others, his two major promises are about halving the power rates and free water. These will be the hardest to keep. He knows that, fixing electricity tariffs, least of all reducing it by half, is beyond the statutory mandate of Delhi government. That’s in the DERC’s (Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission) domain. The only way tariff could be halved is through a state subsidy, which would amount to Rs 3,200 crore per annum. The free water for every household will cost over Rs 400 crore to the exchequer. Where is the money going to come from?

Fourthly how much cooperation can he expect from the Congress and the BJP? The BJP controls the trifurcated Delhi Municipal Corporations. Moreover, Congress leads the Central government and the APP has been opposed to both the national parties.

No doubt that it is a welcome change for the Capital to be ruled by a party with a clean slate. Kejriwal has to be credited with ushering in a new style of politics. It will be game changer if Kejriwal can succeed and naturally it lies in fulfilling the aspirations of the aam aadmi.

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