Millennium Post

Keeping promises

Polls and promises have a sacrosanct relationship. But there's a thin line separating promises from sops. Wooing voters with a variety of promises has not only yielded results but also spoilt the electorate. Like the budget wherein people invariably expect sops, polls without the same is unimaginable. These promises are a prerequisite for any party to muster public support and consequently win the election. Since poll promises are largely intended at forming a good public impression, it is imperative that they arise from local issues. Local issues, addressed or not, automatically become crucial talking points for all candidates ahead of the election. While unfulfilled promises can form a good bulk for the electorate to ignore the incumbent, fancy new promises — some furnished as upgrades of older ones — tend to overshadow those. Individual candidates may impact electorate preference — as was the case with Prime Minister Narendra Modi — but in a democratic government which derives its powers from the will of people, local issues will play an instrumental role. For 15 years — December of 1998 to December of 2013 — Delhi underwent a transformational change. Former Chief Minister, late Shiela Dixit's regime had facelifted the entire national capital. Construction of over 70 flyovers, a sprawling nexus of Delhi Metro lines across the city for rapid and cheap connectivity, a stupendous shift from diesel-propelled buses to CNG ones amidst other developments. Discounting the CWG scam, the occasion called for unprecedented development in the national capital. While even Dixit had her share of lows and highs, her three successive terms were no less than a grandmotherly effort to nurture Delhi. But as part of Congress's general decline, the grand old party lost to a newbie such as AAP. Local issues played a decisive role here as, after a turbulent phase, Delhi got its full term under AAP following their thundering victory that saw them sweep an astonishing 67 seats out of total 70. There was a new persona that had mustered more value than Dixit. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's rise and the general mantra of "aam aadmi" gave a dream start to the Aam Aadmi Party and winning 67 of 70 seats was a testimony to that. Thereafter, five years have all been about assessing Kejriwal and AAP's promises. For an electorate like Delhi, which gave three successive terms to Dixit, anti-corruption played a major stake. In fact, tracing AAP's emergence also yields Kejriwal's unmistakable participation in the Anna Hazare-led Anti-Corruption drive in 2011. Come 2013, the iconic "jhaadu" made quite an impression and now when the 2020 Delhi Assembly election is around the corner, the jhaadu seems to be making strong headways to a successive term.

Releasing the party's 10-point guarantee card, CM Kejriwal assured the electorate of 10 promises that will be fulfilled in AAP's successive tenure. Not to be confused with the manifesto, the guarantee card takes a hint from local issues and aims to keep AAP's promises flowing overhead. While a manifesto is a comprehensive document carrying the party's vision for the region, a guarantee card can be dubbed as a premise to it. While BJP and Congress announced candidate list for February 8 polls, CM Kejriwal sparked a discussion over the guarantee card that contains promises directly impacting the electorate on key fronts. 24-hour electricity and clean water facility are perhaps the most crucial public needs promised in the guarantee card. With them comes the continuity of present schemes offering 200 units and 20,000 litres of electricity and water respectively. Public goods make the most impact and Delhi government's push for constructing reservoirs and rain-water harvesting systems in anticipation of water-stressed future is likely to leave an impact on people. Guaranteeing world-class education for every child in Delhi sounds vague but given his deputy Manish Sisodia's ardent effort to improve the education structure of Delhi government's schools, it seems like a far more believable promise than any other. Mohalla Clinics marked a change and more of those will only benefit. What catches attention is free bus rides for students alongside women. Free rides can also be attributed as a step to reduce vehicular pollution that remains a prime problem for the national capital but the majority of private commuters are not students or women. Reducing air pollution by 3 times is a long shot as air pollution is a result of several factors and not just one but it is anyway time for even the electorate to step up and take cognisance of deteriorating air. Cleaning Yamuna one promise that screams for delivery. In fact, Kejriwal's resolve to clean the Yamuna, if successful, would be a mock on Ganga rejuvenation efforts that only feature in empty rhetorics. For AAP, more than its guarantee card, the development in five years will be decisive. A successful first term without any corruption mark is a sign of successful governance, speaking relative to other states. Championing local issues as well as leading with the popular face marked BJP's return to power back in 2013 and to some extent, even AAP's rise to power in Delhi. PM Modi and CM Kejriwal are more similar than they would like to admit. Both have travelled lengths to create their political presence, dethroning dynastic powers to emerge as people's choice. Both have been recipient of a landslide majority. But more than that, both focussed on local issues, urging the crowd to exercise their mandate and turn fortunes by electing a government that will exclusively work for the citizenry. AAP's return to power will be a strong testament to their delivery on local issues — keeping promises made to the electorate rather than diverting their attention to new ones or unrelated tragedies or accomplishments.

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