A day after sanitation workers in Delhi ended a strike, leaders of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit the streets on Saturday to clean up a garbage mess, in yet another apparent testimony to the ongoing political tussle between the two sides.
Wielding brooms, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and AAP senior leaders Sanjay Singh and Ashutosh, among others, led hundreds of volunteers on their cleanliness drive that was seen by rivals as a desperate bid for political mileage on the day municipal employees got back to work and promised to clean up the mess within three days.
On Friday, the Delhi high court stepped in to call for an end to the 12-day strike which saw 15,000 'safai karamcharis' or sanitation workers stay off work over non-payment of salaries for two months. All three municipal bodies in Delhi are run by the BJP.
Talking to reporters, AAP leaders sought to blame the BJP-run municipal corporation (MCD) for the strike which left about 15,000 tonnes on garbage on the streets of east Delhi.
"Delhi government doesn't have the money but we have taken out funds to pay workers...If BJP can't pay their salaries, we will not only pay salaries but also help them clean up," Sisodia said.
AAP's Ashish Khetan said, "Who created this crisis? Who bankrupted MCD? Delhi will be cleaned when MCD is free of corruption."
BJP workers too did not lag behind, and shortly launched their drive. Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay was seen taking part in a cleanliness campaign near Akshardham.
The Congress hit out at both the BJP and the AAP, with senior leader Digvijaya Singh tweeting that both parties were doing drama after the high court had called for an end to the strike.
AAP starts cleanliness drive after Sanitation Workers strike has been called off. Photo ops for AAP. Modi and Kejriwal are Masters of नौटंकी— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) June 13, 2015
Following the court's intervention on Friday, lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung agreed to release Rs 493 crore to the mayors of the three MCDs to pay salaries to the workers, ending a tug of war with state government. AAP leaders claimed Rs 513 crore was released the previous day by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to meet the arrears.
Municipal officials, however, said there was still a possibility of future strikes as the funds may not be sufficient for the payment of salaries to all the employees.
They said the money released by the Delhi government will not be enough to clear salaries of all the employees till May and an additional Rs 100 crore was needed.
"While the Delhi government has released Rs 513 crore in funds we still require an additional amount to disburse salaries and pensions. The mayors demanded the additional Rs 100 crore and also the global share of Rs 300 crore for the quarter out of Rs 1,200 crore given annually, be also released to sustain the services," north Delhi mayor Ravinder Gupta said.