The heat is on, not just for Delhiites struggling with their commute this odd-even fortnight but also for the city’s bickering rivals — the AAP government and the opposition BJP.
Day two of the car-rationing scheme to unclog the city’s roads and clear its foul air opened on Saturday with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal accusing the BJP of sabotage and suspecting it of being behind an auto-taxi strike called on Monday.
The provocation was BJP MP Vijay Goel’s threat a day ago to break the rules on Monday in a symbolic protest against the spending of taxpayers’ money on advertisements for the scheme. His party said Goel was acting in his personal capacity, but also that it was ready to campaign against the scheme that only caused “inconvenience”.
Auto and taxi unions affiliated to the RSS, the BJP’s ideological parent, have called a strike on Monday to oppose app-based aggregators like Ola and Uber. The week’s first working day will be the first real test of the odd-even plan, with schools and offices opening after an extended weekend.
“BJP auto union calls strike. BJP wants odd-even to fail. But Delhi will fail BJP. In Jan too, BJP tried to fail odd-even by orchestrating officers’ strike. Ppl failed BJP n made odd-even success (sic),” Kejriwal tweeted.
RSS n BJP want odd-even to fail but Delhi will fail BJP yet again https://t.co/TFpDPSPk7n— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) 16 April 2016
His transport minister Gopal Rai, who will meet the unions on Sunday, said, “The BJP wants to sabotage odd-even. It is behind the strike call as unions backed by them are the only ones that won’t ply. I have heard it is being done to favour cab aggregators.”
Delhi has 15,000 black-yellow taxis and 81,000 autorickshaws, ruled by several unions. But the faction going on strike has a sizeable presence. Congress-backed auto unions are against the strike.
Though Union road transport minister and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari had assured Kejriwal of “full support” to the car-rationing programme on April 12, the party’s Delhi unit is against it. “The party is not saying we will break the rules. But if needed, we will appeal to people to oppose odd-even. There has been no improvement in pollution levels, and there is great acrimony among people due to the inconvenience and reports of bungling by the government,” said Delhi unit chief Satish Upadhyay.
Goel, on the other hand, had supported the first round of odd-even in January by cycling from his Ashoka Road house to Connaught Place. “I am not opposing odd-even. My problem is with the self-promotion of the Aam Aadmi Party and Kejriwal,” he explained on Saturday.
“There are hoardings, newspaper, radio and television ads. This costs crores of rupees. It is completely unwarranted. The fine of Rs 2,000 is also very high. The fine for riding a bike without a helmet is only Rs 100 even though that saves lives.”
About his plan to pick up a challan on Monday, Goel said, “It is symbolic. Kejriwal is publicising his own name under the garb of the odd-even scheme. There are full-page ads… that talk about the scheme and have his photographs. This is sheer wastage. If the scheme is so good, make it permanent.”
Former chief minister and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit has also criticised the scheme, saying Delhi isn’t ready for it with its poor public transport system.