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Cheap power: After AAP push, BJP & Congress up the ante

Cheap power: After AAP push, BJP & Congress up the ante
With only a few days left for the polls, the three main contenders — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and AAP have been wooing voters by promising to lower power tariffs.

The erstwhile Sheila Dikshit led Congress government was blamed for pampering private distribution companies but realising the mood of the people, party leader Ajay Maken has now promised power at the rate Rs 1.50 per unit for domestic consumers using less than 200 units and a reduction by 50 per cent for those crossing that threshold.  

Arvind Kejriwal led AAP has stolen a march over its rivals on the issue of power and people appear to be trusting it more after his 49-day stint after the 2013 polls when he slashed power rates by half for consumption up to 400 units. The AAP government had announced subsidy for consumers under the slab of 0-200 and 201-400 units per month.

The power subsidy which came into effect from January 1, 2014 continued till March 31, 2014. Power consumers were paying Rs 1.95 per unit against the existing rate of Rs 3.90 per unit. Similarly, the consumers were paying the rate of Rs 2.90 per unit against the existing Rs 5.80 per unit for the slab 201-400 units.

Kejriwal after assuming charge as Delhi Chief Minister had ordered CAG audit for Discoms - Anil Ambani owned BSES and Tata Power, which did not go down well with them. Despite an order by Delhi High Court these private companies were not cooperating with CAG officials.

The Delhi High Court in September last year had adjourned for the next hearing on appeals filed by the private discoms against the order of a single judge refusing to stay Delhi government’s decision to have CAG audit of their accounts.

The AAP was successful in convincing a large number of consumers and common people that Delhi Power distribution companies were fudging records and committing fraud to show revenue losses , while actually they were making windfall profits. Moreover, AAP had alleged that then Congress Chief Minister Dikshit had stopped the DERC from passing an order in 2010 which recommended a 23 per cent reduction in power tariff.

The AAP referred to documents to prove that then former DERC Chief Brijender Singh was to pass an order on May 5, 2010, proposing reduction in power tariff, which was shot down by the Dikshit government.

The party also accused the BSES of artificially inflating their expenses by declaring that they bought power equipment worth Rs 1,428 crore between 2004 and 2006 from sister concern Reliance Energy Limited even as the actual cost was pegged at only Rs 850 crore. Kejriwal publicly accused Anil Ambani’s companies of manipulating power rates by trading it through dubious routes.

The allegations ahead of the December 4, Assembly polls were then rejected by the Congress government but now realizing how the issue has become a burning poll issue, the party has been forced to announce a drastic cut in power rates ahead of the February 7 polls in which the party faces a grim battle to stay relevant in Delhi politics. Even the BJP which was also accused of taking funds from Reliance companies by AAP also pledged to reduce power rates by 30 per cent.

At present, the power companies are selling electricity at Rs 3.90 per unit for monthly consumptions up to 200 units. The central government has been providing a subsidy of Rs 1.2 per unit in this slab.

Those consuming between 201 and 400 units a month, are charged at Rs 5.80 per unit by the power companies. The Centre has been providing a subsidy of 80 paisa per unit in the second slab. There is no subsidy for those who consume more than 400 units every month.  Such consumers have to cough up Rs 7 per unit.
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