Right Word | AAP’s governance model in Delhi: All that glitters is not gold

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The governance model of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has got exposed leading to knee jerk reactions from its leaders. One of its ministers in Delhi, Satyendar Jain, is already in jail under the charges of financial irregularities. He hasn’t been able to get bail after repeated attempts. Now another of its ministers Manish Sisodia is also facing an investigation for alleged irregularities in the excise policy.

Meanwhile, AAP leaders have started targeting Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena by running a smear campaign against him. This is a standard operating procedure adopted by AAP. Whenever AAP leaders get cornered, they launch a counter offensive to divert the focus from the main issue and attack those cornering them with wild allegations. In the past also AAP leaders have levelled false allegations. Once the immediate crisis is over, they backtrack and apologise.

Kejriwal himself had apologised to the Union Minister Arun Jaitley in 2018. Along with him his party leaders Raghav Chadha and Sanjay Singh had also apologised after Jaitley had filed a Rs 10 crore defamation case in 2015 against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders for making unsubstantiated allegations against him.

Here are excerpts from Kejriwal’s full apology:

Dear Shri Arun Jaitley Ji,

I had made certain statements about you and your family in December 2015 and thereafter in connection with your tenure as the president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association. …These allegations made by me were based on information and papers furnished to me by certain individuals who represented to have first-hand insight into the affairs of DDCA. However, I have recently discovered that the information and the imputations contained therein are unfounded and unwarranted and I was clearly misinformed into making these allegations.

Therefore, I unequivocally withdraw all the allegations made by me in question whether made in print, electronic or social media against you. I offer my sincere apology to you and your family members for any harm caused to your reputation as a consequence of my allegations.”

In the past, Kejriwal has also apologised to BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari and Bikram Singh Majithia as well as former Congress leader Kapil Sibal for making false allegations.

It is clear by now that anyone who points out misdeeds of the AAP government in Delhi is targeted by its leaders through high decibel smear campaigns. However, it would have been better if before attacking others, AAP leaders had set their own house in order as there are too many chinks in their armour now.

What has agitated AAP?

The AAP’s claims regarding their government’s overall performance in Delhi have come under scanner again. The recent crisis started with a botched up excise policy which had to be taken back by the AAP government within a year and replaced by the old policy. For almost 10 months AAP leaders were defending this policy and then suddenly the Delhi government did an about turn! If this policy was so good, why was it replaced by the older policy? AAP leaders are refusing to answer this simple question.  Investigating agencies are already looking into the allegations of corruption in excise policy. A couple of officials have already been suspended by the Centre. While the AAP is going gung-ho over the raids on its minister for excise Manish Sisodia, it isn’t coming out clean on what went wrong with the new liquor policy which was projected as another feather in the AAP government’s cap?

Truth behind claim of revenue-plus state

There has been a lot of hullabaloo regarding improvement in Delhi’s finances under the AAP government. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has gone to the town saying that Delhi has become a revenue plus state due to his government’s efforts. He made these claims on the basis of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report.

This is half-truth. What Kejriwal forgot to mention is that Delhi has become a revenue surplus state because the Central government bears the expenditure under two major heads for Delhi- pension for the government employees and budget for Delhi Police.

Here is what the CAG report said: “The revenue surplus of NCT of Delhi in 2019-20 of Rs 7,499 crore indicates that revenue receipts of the Government were sufficient to meet the revenue expenditure. Revenue surplus stood at 0.88 per cent of GSDP in 2019-20 as against 0.81 per cent in 2018-19. NCT of Delhi has been able to maintain revenue surplus largely on account of pension liabilities of GNCTD employees being borne by GoI. In addition, expenditure of Delhi Police is also borne by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.”

The revenue surplus of the Delhi government stood at Rs 7,499 crore in 2019-20. During the same period pension liabilities of Rs 1,315.72 crore of GNCTD employees and Rs 8,208.51 crore of revenue expenditure of Delhi Police were borne by the Central government. So had the central government not been bearing this expenditure, Delhi government would have been facing a revenue deficit of around Rs 2,000 crore.

Net worth of power and transport bodies become zero

There is no dearth of instances of mismanagement by Delhi government under the AAP rule. Some of the prominent one, highlighted by the CAG report, indicate that Delhi is heading towards a point of no-return especially in crucial sectors like power and public transport.

According to the CAG report, “As on 31 March 2020, net worth of Delhi Power Company Limited and Delhi Transport Corporation was (-) Rs 37,124.89 crore which was completely eroded by accumulated loss of these State Public Sector Enterprises.”

One may recall here that in both these sectors, the AAP government has offered freebies and heavy subsidies. The financial position of these two companies also raise serious doubts over the logic of offering freebies to garner votes while compromising the financial health of the state enterprises making them unfeasible to be run in the long run.

Non-starters included DNA test lab under Nirbhaya Fund

The CAG report has listed a number of non-starters where the entire provision remained unutilised. ‘Schemes which did not take off due to non-utilisation of the entire provision were — Chief Minister Advocate Welfare Scheme (Rs 25.00 crore), DNA Test Lab — Nirbhaya Fund (Rs 3.30 crore), Pre-Matric scholarship scheme for minority students (Rs 6.50 crore), Swachh Bharat Mission (Rs 24.00 crore), and Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) Corridor (Rs 47.00 crore).’

“Savings of the entire provision was indicative of the fact that the estimates were not prepared after adequate scrutiny of the projects/schemes,” observed the CAG in this regard.

Unanswered questions about education model

The much touted education model of Delhi which is projected as a flagship programme by the AAP government also needs to be reviewed in the light of the latest data provided by the National Achievement Survey (NAS) conducted by the Union Ministry of Education. A look at these statistics show that the overall performance of Delhi schools is driven by the private, state aided and the Central government run schools. On all fronts they perform much better than the state government run schools which lag behind these three in performance on almost every front.

According to the Delhi Economic Survey 2020-21, the performance of secondary school students in Delhi has been consistently below national average from 2015-2021.

From 2015 to 2021, the respective pass percentage of secondary level students at the national level was 95.81, 89.25, 92.44, 68.90, 71.58, 82.61 and 97.52.  For Delhi the respective pass percentage of secondary students from 2015 to 2021 was 95.81, 89.25, 92.44, 68.90, 71.58, 82.61 and 97.52.

Anna Hazare’s letter

The Aam Aadmi Party has been borne out of the India against Corruption (IAC) movement that was launched under the leadership of Anna Hazare. The latter has now himself written to Arvind Kejriwal criticising his government’s functioning, especially its excise policy. But Kejriwal and his colleagues have brushed aside even Hazare’s objections and observations.

What we have discussed so far appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. It is clear that despite its high decibel campaigns the road ahead is not easy for the AAP as its much-hyped model of governance constantly reminds one of the age-old saying: ‘All that glitters is not gold.’

The writer, an author and columnist, has written several books. Views expressed are personal.

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Right Word | AAP’s governance model in Delhi: All that glitters is not gold
Right Word | AAP’s governance model in Delhi: All that glitters is not gold
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