Between Swaraj and Raj, lies a shadow

At a conclave organised by a major media house last year, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was the key attraction. Having first surprised everybody with the performance of his party in the assembly polls, then shocking everyone with his dharna style governance, he had demitted office in a huff. At this conclave a former commissioner of Delhi Police, Neeraj Kumar, made a very interesting comment about the Aam Aadmi Party’s new style of politics and governance.

Kumar said that Kejriwal had indeed managed to make a style statement with his muffler but he should have given sometime to governance as well. “You came wearing a muffler, you went wearing a muffler, you should have waited for the summers to know what it is to govern Delhi, Mr Kejriwal,” Kumar had quipped. I was reminded of the good cop, when I heard the chief minister’s reactions on the issues of municipal governance and water supply.

When Kejriwal started on his journey as a politician he came out with a book titled Swaraj. It contained his ideas about politics, talked about grassroots governance and giving functional autonomy to bodies responsible at the grassroots level. His statements in the past few days regarding the financial crisis in the municipal corporations of the national capital run quite contrary to what he had preached through his book.

Let me first briefly summarise the issue of paucity of funds in municipal bodies; where I am also a member. The chief minister has tried to create the perception that the municipal bodies are incompetent entities unable to raise any monies for the functioning of civic services. This is farthest from the truth. What we are seeking is our legitimate share of taxes. The ‘crisis’ is largely on account of the social obligation for paying pensions of retired teaching employees and regularising all such employees, who have been working on contract basis for the past 10 years or more.

The chief minister, during his election campaign, had promised voters that he would regularise jobs of those working on a contract basis with the government. If the municipal bodies are seeking to do the same, where is the question of mismanagement? Why is he asking us councillors to resign and quit office and hand over the municipal bodies to the Delhi government? This is what he did not preach in his book Swaraj. He talked of strengthening the grassroots bodies; his stand now is to the contrary.

Coming to managing disorder in his house, Kejriwal’s statements clearly show that Delhi is heading for a parched summer. Instead of preparing to meet the challenge of supplying water to thirsty citizens, he has decided move on a path of confrontation with one and all. This is a well calculated move to paper over the cracks in the administration of Delhi Jal Board, the body responsible for water supply.

I was amused to read his two recent statements. In the first he said that if the municipal bodies wanted money they should ask the Centre, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power, to release Rs 600 crore, which in turn could be released to the BJP-controlled Municipal Corporation Departments (MCDs). The other statement he made was that he would cut water supply to Lutyens’ Delhi, if Haryana did not release adequate water for the national capital during the summer months. He again flagged the BJP for being in power in both Haryana and at the Centre.

It’s churlish for a responsible political executive; and that too holding a responsible position like that of chief minister of a state, to practice the politics of blackmail. The Delhi government is adopting double standards, one with regards to release of funds by the Centre to the Delhi government and another by the Delhi government to the municipal bodies.

While in case of the former, the Delhi government wants the recommendation of central finance commission to be implemented even in the case of union territories; on the other hand within the national Capital they are not ready to implement the recommendations of the state finance panel, which decides revenue sharing with local bodies. Kejriwal should realise that he is not just Aam Aadmi Party’s chief minister but chief minister of the national capital, including its municipal bodies and must provide for all its departments and subordinate institutions.

The chief minister should also realise that water supply can be improved by streamlining functioning of the Delhi Jal Board and nothing would be achieved with the threats to snap supplies. AAP leaders have gone on record claiming that sufficient water was available but being lost in pilferage. Having detected the problem, it’s now their turn to end pilferage. But that demands articulate governance, of which there isn’t any evidence so far.

The chief minister needs to go back to the book he authored and put the spirit of Swaraj into acts of governance. Advice is easily given than executed. As senior cop Neeraj Kumar had predicted, the heat of Delhi summer is catching up with the state government. It’s important that Kejriwal keeps his cool and addresses issues with sagacity becoming of a person holding such an important position.
(The writer is Chairman, Education Committee, South MCD and general secretary, Delhi BJP)
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