Monday, December 30, 2013

AAP disappoints with free water announcement…..

The AAP made poll promises that everyone knew were impossible to fulfil. But revolutionaries as party members see themselves to be, the party has decided to deliver those impossible promises, the impact on the government’s finances be damned. But even in this, there is so much of a slip between the promise and the reality. And though its too early to judge the newborn, its already looking like the AAP would end up like just another political party – promising the earth and the moon and delivering ordinary muck.

The Delhi government run now by AAP has made water free for the first 660 litres per person per day. The announcement is worded in a way that generates positive vibes for the party. The media – which loves AAP – has done what the AAP expected it to do: gone to town praising the party’s announcement. “Master-stroke” one particularly thrilled newspaper called it. “Fulfils promise” and “Delivers” were the general refrain of all the others. But a closer scrutiny of the announcement shows just how much of a “fraud” this announcement is:

1)    The free water scheme is only for 3 months. Why only 3 months? No explanation has been given. Is it so that the government gets more time to study its impact and can decide on the issue in a more permanent manner? Or is it just playing to the galleries and will continue doing it till the Lok Sabha elections?
2)    The free water is only for those with “legal water meters”. Now several Delhi experts have already pointed out that this condition hurts the really poor sections of the population – the real aam aadmi as against the middle-class “fake” aam aadmis who support the AAP. What is the AAP’s plans for these really poor people? Will they supply 660 litres per day to them via tankers? Again, a deafening silence on the issue. And remember this is a party that is quick to talk to the media (including informing the public about its leader’s “loose motions”!).
3)    The bizarre concept that if you exceed 660 litres by even 1 litre, you have to pay for the entire quantity, not just the incremental litre. I understand the objective is to force people to cut down on wasteful usage, but isn’t the methodology a little too harsh, almost draconian? Is this why people find similarities between Kejriwal and Modi?
4)    For those who do exceed the free quota, and thus have to pay for the full quantity, the prices have been increased by 10% as decided by Delhi Jal Board “earlier itself”. Now isn’t this is complete fraud? I thought the AAP had promised that there would be no rate hike. I thought their entire politics was that there was “rampant corruption” in DJB and by removing corruption, the price hike would become unnecessary. But suddenly, the AAP has gone with the previous government’s decision on rate hikes. Again, there is no explanation provided for this. Has the experience of a few days in office shown them that not everything was wrong with the previous government? In fact, Minister of Health, Satyendra Jain has said that North Delhi dispensaries were “in very good condition”. So is the party conceding that it raked up issues which didn’t even exist?
5)    The only possible explanation for the 10% hike is not a very happy one, and is certainly going to cut into the party’s votes in the near future. The party’s “ultra-left” positioning on economics – which compels it to subsidize the poor on the one hand (or at least that’s what they aim for) and increase tariffs for the middle-class and the rich on the other – is bound to hurt the party’s core support base, which is the middle-class. If this segment is going to see water tariffs rise, and a higher Sales Tax (as reported over social media) for goods that it consumes, then it’s going to pull out support from AAP rather soon. Idealism and all is fine, but when the shoe starts to bite, its time to discard it!
6)    Most importantly, has the party found corruption in DJB? If it’s not had the time to investigate it, why could it not just defer the 10% hike till it was completed. That investigation would hopefully find huge corruption, and eliminating that corruption would make the hike unnecessary right? In fact, maybe the water tariffs could actually go down by 10-30% if that was the extent of corruption right? So what was the rush in accepting the 10% hike?

The AAP has also made some truly silly and unexplainable announcements. If social media is to be believed, the AAP will extend support to the opponents of Koodankulam. Why for god’s sake? Is the AAP taking a stand that it is opposed to nuclear power? But why?

The first week in power has brought out other realities that are not very palatable. For example, transferring senior bureaucrats from the DJB, the power ministry and the finance ministry smacks of the Mayawati and Mulayam style of politics. “Searching for honest officials” smacks of tainting the whole bureaucracy with the brush of corruption. And one party member – Kumar Vishwas – going around from one TV camera to another thumping his chest and challenging Modi and Rahul Gandhi to a contest is plain arrogance. Kumar Vishwas is no Kejriwal and for him to throw such challenges is foolish at best. It’s shocking that a party which vowed to destroy political arrogance is getting smeared by it so quickly. Besides, most of the party’s actions have been symbolic in nature – going to office by auto, opening up the Secretariat to the general public disturbing work in the process, shunning security even while Delhi remains on the radar of terrorists – and smack of the kind of politics more associated with the Congress and BJP. In any case, now that the party has started receiving members like Kamal Farooqui (ex SP) and Alka Lamba (ex Congress), what is there to separate it from the rest?

The real truth is that the first week of the AAP government has been disappointing to say the least. It’s unfair of course to judge them so soon, but at the very minimum one expected them to become a little more mature. The free water announcement without unearthing corruption, and without considering if it will really cover all of Delhi or not, is particularly disappointing. They could have easily waited for 2 weeks or more, unearthed huge corruption, and then made water free. No one would have grudged them that extra time….but symbolism is all they have indulged in. I seriously don’t know what to expect of them in the next 3 months. Much more populism, much more symbolism…..and perhaps, much more stupidity as well.

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