Break the law and we will reward you — this seems to be the message from the AAP government in Delhi to the people. Its decision to foot 50% of the electricity bills of consumers who defaulted on their payment between October 2012 and December 2013 and to waive any penalty on these bills is unviable at best and unfair at worst. The government has identified 24,036 such defaulters who will be rewarded and this move will cost the state exchequer Rs 6 crore.
The Arvind Kejriwal government has already subsidised water and electricity tariffs at a cost of `200 crore. Cabinet minister Manish Sisodia’s statement that “the people who supported us during the andolan….should benefit now” puts the government’s move in perspective — Rs 6 crore of the taxpayers’ money is being used to ‘benefit’ a section of the party’s supporters.
In Indian politics there is nothing new in a political party or government announcing sops in the hope that the intended group of beneficiaries would vote for the party. From cycles, televisions, mixer grinder to laptops and even regularisation of illegal settlements, political parties, both at the central and state level, have tried to outdo the other. However, AAP’s move takes populism to a new level.
The AAP government in Delhi is in a tearing hurry, and in eagerness to sprint ahead it does not seem to ponder too much about the consequences of the statements and decisions it is taking. The subsidy can only be seen as a move to ‘reward’ those who stood by the party in its ‘bijli-paani andolan’ days. It sends out a covert message to AAP supporters that ‘if you stick by the party in all its decisions, you will be rewarded’.
This move mocks the consumers who stuck to the law and did not heed Mr Kejriwal’s call to default on bill payments. This also sends out a wrong message to political parties like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which is on a protest against toll taxes in Maharashtra, that they can break the law and also to the people that if they go against the law they will be rewarded, not punished.