It has been less than a month in the government and AAP already has had its fair share of controversies and allegations. This article analyzes the allegations against the AAP government which are doing the rounds in social media.
The allegations against AAP which have merit
A lot of allegations against AAP hold merit. The following is the list of issues that have been raised in the last month and for which AAP has not provided a satisfactory answer yet.
1. Electricity Subsidy – Anyone who understands economics cannot support a subsidy on electricity as a progressive measure. The issue seems to be a quick-fix solution to deliver on the promise of cheaper electricity to Delhi citizens by the AAP government regardless of the fact that it is the same citizens who foot the bill of this subsidy through taxes. It is effectively a transfer of costs from the direct electricity bill to the tax bill. Alternatively, the money spent on subsidy reduces the money available to build enough infrastructure for other needs. Although the total amount spent on this electricity subsidy is about 2% of Delhi government’s budget (annualized), it is the direction of policy and not the absolute amount spent which is important. AAP claims that it is a temporary measure and once the results of the CAG audit on discoms are out, the tariffs would be automatically reduced and subsidy will be done away with. Such a promise assumes the culpability of discoms without the CAG yet submitting its report. In the eventuality that CAG does not find fault with discoms’ books and hence no direct tariff reduction is possible, this electricity subsidy would become difficult to rollback and hence become a cost which current and future governments would have to endure.
AAP effect! Power to cost more in Delhi. Milk to cost more in Delhi. Blackouts to last longer in Delhi. Andolan Zindabad!
— Kanchan Gupta (@KanchanGupta) January 31, 2014
2. Water Pricing and Distribution Policy – There are both good points and bad to this policy. People have alleged that it is effectively a subsidy. This is incorrect since a subsidy gives freebies with no route to get the money back. The water pricing policy makes the water free only till 20,000 litres a month of consumption and requires the consumer to pay for the full amount if he uses beyond that limit. Thus, in this case the water that is given free to those who consume less than 20,000 litres is paid for by the extra money gathered from those who consume more. In case the extra money from those who utilize more pays completely for the free water to those who consume less, there is no loss of taxpayer money.One can argue whether this policy is fair. On one hand, it requires either people to conserve water or pay for the entire amount thereby awarding those that conserve. On the other hand, the policy is socialist in the sense that those who consume more are effectively paying for those who consume less. Depending on the reader’s ideology, this may be considered a positive or a negative step. However, one angle that this pricing policy completely ignores is that not all families have same number of members. 20,000 litres for someone who is living alone gives him a license to splurge while it is too less for a large family. Having this free water limit independent of number of members in the household is not really equitable. A government claiming fairness should have same limit of free water distribution on a per person basis rather than on per family basis. There are definitely operational issues in implementing pricing based on per capita but then it is the government’s duty to come up with innovative solutions.
AAP terms hospitals, schools and roads as ‘frivilous’ projects as it diverts money budgeted for these to subsidies. http://t.co/R6pJJNubxj
— India Policy (@India_Policy) January 31, 2014
3. Reservations– The opinion of the AAP education minister and his intention of reserving 90% of seats in 12 government funded Delhi colleges for Delhi students cannot really be called progressive. AAP’s general support for the reservation system also indicates a lack of intent to bring equality in the country.
4. Conduct of the law minister– The law minister for Delhi wanted the police to search and detain people who were alleged to have indulged in drug abuse and sex trafficking without any warrants. On the refusal of police to do so, the law minister made some objectionable comments. It is correct that police should act against any drug and sex rackets in its jurisdiction, but expecting the police to do so without legal warrants is unconstitutional. The only time police has a legal right to raid a place without warrants is when either the crime has been established or a delay may cause a crime of unimaginable proportions. Having an intention to stop crime is no justification for using unconstitutional methods.
5. Statements of Prashant Bhushan on Kashmir– The lesser said about this one, the better it is. To anyone who believes that Kashmir is an integral part of India, the opinions of AAP’s senior leader Mr. Prashant Bhushan about a referendum in Kashmir can only be seen as a secessionist viewpoint, minority appeasement or an intention to create controversy deliberately to stay in the news. Any of those possible explanations do not throw a positive light on him and AAP by extension.
6. Intention behind contesting in LS elections– This is the biggest question that AAP has to answer. AAP has not yet proven beyond doubt that they have the ability to govern well. Their state government in Delhi is in a nascent stage. The party currently does not have a clear economic and foreign policy – issues which cannot be ignored when contesting national elections. At the same time, AAP also knows that unlike the Delhi elections, it cannot get close to the magical number of 272 seats in Lok Sabha elections. By its own admission, AAP does not believe in coalition politics especially when such coalition is with the so-called corrupt parties such as Congress and BJP. What then does AAP wish to achieve by contesting Lok Sabha elections now? Does AAP not realize that a few seats won by AAP would seriously threaten the stability of any government at the centre and not allow smooth functioning by the government? Such an eventuality can only be detrimental to long-term prospects of Indian economy. It has also been alleged by many that their entry into LS elections is only a display of opportunism to gain a few seats based on the current positive wave about them in the country rather than a well thought out plan for Indian politics and economics.
All of the above charges hold merit and are questions which the AAP has to answer. When asked directly about these questions, AAP starts counting its achievements of the past four weeks – effectively dodging the question. Without clear answers on these issues, it is difficult to differentiate between AAP and other parties which try to circumvent inconvenient questions and focus only on the ones they have ready answers to.
Allegations against AAP which are baseless
The list of allegations does not end above. There are other allegations too which I personally do not find merit in. The following is a list of such allegations.
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) January 30, 2014
1. Taking support from Congress is lack of integrity– There are many videos on facebook which show Arvind Kejriwal taking an oath on his children that he will not accept support from BJP or Congress (nor give it). This when combined with the fact that his current government is running with Congress support is being taken as an example of a complete U-turn and lack of integrity in Arvind Kejriwal. I find this allegation baseless since I believe that while judging moral issues such as integrity, it is the spirit of words and not the words themselves which should be looked at. When AAP said that it will not take/give support to BJP or Congress, what was implied was that no compromises would be made to secure power. There was no horse-trading as was the norm in Indian politics prior to AAP coming to power in Delhi in India (the only exception being when AB Vajpayee allowed his central government to fall for being 1 vote short rather than buying that 1 vote). No positions were given to any Congress MLAs in the government. The recent initiatives by the government clearly show that they are not really soft on corruption by the previous Congress government (explained in next section). In that sense, AAP has kept its promise of not making compromises to secure or retain power.
2. AAP wants the police to act on its whims and fancies– This allegation looks reasonable when their demand of Delhi Police being under the Delhi government is being seen in connection with the law minister’s actions. But as a standalone demand, it is a highly recommended procedure. Delhi Police is allegedly corrupt at all levels. Be it the auto-drivers, vegetable sellers, construction contractors or slum-dwellers, the Delhi Police exhorts all of them in the name of ‘hafta’. When the people expect the state government to be responsible both for corruption in the state and its law and order, it is rational to expect that the government should have authority over the police. An absence of authority over Delhi Police by the state government is a case of “Accountability without Authority” which is irrational by any standard. Thus, a demand for Delhi Police to come under the purview of the state government is completely fair.
3. AAP is communist– An opposition to FDI in retail and a subsidy to the people in electricity by AAP is being interpreted as communist gestures by many. By that logic, any party which has given subsidies in the past and opposes FDI in retail must be communist. However, those arguing that AAP is communist conveniently leave out the subsidies by both BJP and Congress and the opposition of 100% FDI in retail by BJP which is considered to have a pro-capitalist mindset by many.
Reversing FDI in retail sends a bad signal. If AAP govt does it in Delhi, it’s bad. If BJP govt does it in Rajasthan, it’s still bad.
— Ashok Malik (@MalikAshok) January 31, 2014
Another reason why AAP is considered communist is since its leader Arvind Kejriwal has said that if the discoms in Delhi refuse an audit, they can pack their bags and leave. The idea of electricity going back to the government is surely scary especially remembering the state of electricity during DESU days. But then the intention was not to remove discoms from Delhi but to ensure that an audit into their books happens.
Although the discoms eventually did not refuse an audit and hence the matter is purely academic now, it is still made for the sake of completeness. If the discoms were really bleeding and their financial books were as clean as they claim, there was no reason to refuse an audit. Any opposition to an audit then indicates that there is a fear of some fudged books or corruption to be exposed in the audits. It does not need a communist to ask a company, which gives such signals of corruption/fudged books, to leave the job and allow someone else to take over.
4. AAP is anarchist– The word ‘anarchy’ has many interpretations. ‘Anarchy’ can be used to imply that all power is decentralized or no single person holds absolute power. ‘Anarchy’ can also be used to describe a state where law and order has completely broken down. There are many other interpretations of ‘anarchy’ and unless someone explains which interpretation is implied, it is difficult to comment on whether AAP is anarchist. Even the above two interpretations yield different viewpoints on AAP’s anarchy.
If the former interpretation is considered (decentralized power), then AAP does show symptoms of anarchy. With their idea of jan-sabha’s and mohalla-sabha’s to decide on how the fund for the area must be utilized, AAP does intend to transfer a lot of development related power in the hands of people. Whether you call it ‘participatory democracy’ or ‘anarchy’ is simply a nomenclature issue.
If the second interpretation is considered (lawlessness), AAP is on the opposite end of the spectrum. They want laws to be strengthened as is shown by their commitment to demand for a stronger Lokpal. They want people to report cases of corruption so that the vigilance department can launch inquiries. They want police under the state government control so that law and order may be enforced easier and crime can be controlled by the state government which is held accountable for it. Thus, it is not a breakdown of law and order but a demand for more efficient working of law enforcement that AAP makes. Hence, AAP is not anarchic by this definition.
5. AAP believes in vigilante justice– This is one of the most flawed arguments against AAP. AAP does not want people to take law in their own hands or pass judgements. The sting operations which they asked people to do as evidence of corruption are not convictions by themselves. They want people to report and collect preliminary evidence against any corruption people face. They want people to submit such evidence or report corruption to the law enforcement agencies. It is the job of the law enforcement to conduct inquiries and ensure justice. At no point has AAP asked or requested people to judge and punish the criminals. They have asked people to be vigilant as opposed to being vigilante.
By Shobhit Aggarwal