New Delhi, Jan 27: Unconventional politician Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government has earned kudos and brickbats – both aplenty – as it completes a month of action-packed and somewhat controversial governance.
Even as he prepares to celebrate four weeks in office, the knives are already out for Law Minister Somnath Bharti while one of the 28 Aam Aadmi Party legislators has revolted against Kejriwal.
The opposition wants Bharti sacked for what is being described as a vigilante-type raid on a south Delhi colony against a drug-and-sex racket allegedly involving Africans.
The pluses and minuses notwithstanding, the AAP regime has gained both national and global attention. It has also altered political discourse in the country, making the one-year-old party a player of sorts ahead of the general election.
Delhi Urban Development Minister Manish Sisodia, the de facto no.2 in the government, told IANS: “We have done good work in the first month and there is always scope for improvement.
“We will work with more vigour in the coming months,” he added.
Contrary to the expectations of critics, Kejriwal implemented some of the AAP promises within three weeks of assuming power.
This included halving the power rates for the lower end consumers and free supply of 667 litres of water daily for those with metered connections.
The VIP culture, symbolized by the red and blue beacons on official cars, was abolished. All government schools were surveyed to learn about their infrastructure issues — and given Rs.1 lakh for immediate repairs.
An income tax official-turned-activist-turned-politician, Kejriwal, 45, has refused to accept gun-toting security personnel for his protection — or moved into a large colonial-style bungalow.
Kejriwal still uses his small private car for travel, making it a point, like the proverbial ‘aam aadmi’ (common man), to stop at traffic junctions in the capital.
All these – and more – have won wide admiration. Rajasthan’s BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje now halts at traffic lights too. Thanks to what is known as the ‘AAP effect’, some states have cut power rates.
“Tell me one government which has done so much work in 21 days,” Kejriwal boasted at the end of three weeks.
The Secretariat, the seat of the government, is now open to all and sundry. Citizens are welcome to complain against government departments. But a ‘Janata Darbar’ Kejriwal organised collapsed after 20,000 people virtually mobbed the chief minister and his inexperienced ministers.
“I have never seen any government function at such speed,” said a government official requesting anonymity. “When Sheila Dikshit took power in 2008 for a third term, the Secretariat was deserted for days.”
Dikshit, who was defeated by Kejriwal, says the AAP government has failed to inspire confidence.
“It is too short a time for a government to be judged,” the Congress veteran told IANS. “But it has not been able to generate the confidence (among the people).”
While Kejriwal has announced an anti-corruption helpline to trap the corrupt, he is yet to unveil the Jan Lokpal bill he had promised to at the Ramlila Maidan where he took oath Dec 28.
Critics say the Bharti episode exposed the AAP’s main problem — it is still wedded to activism and is yet to learn the ropes of governance.
Kejriwal, who described himself as an ‘anarchist’ created history of sorts by himself staging a sit-in protest in the heart of the capital against Delhi Police, drawing widespread criticism.
The Supreme Court chided him — and pulled up the police too.
Senior journalist Kuldip Nayar thinks the AAP government has done “a fairly good job” in one month. But Nayar told IANS: “I don’t agree with the way Kejriwal protested.”
AAP’s Sisodia counters: “Those who don’t agree with Arvind’s dharna are used to conventional politics.”
Homemaker Sarita, 41, who voted for AAP, says it is too early to give a verdict on the AAP government. But she is happy with the slashing of the power tariff.
“But the way Bharti has behaved is not acceptable,” she said.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)