It tested and challenged governments on the parameters of transparency, accountability and on their delivery of promises as activists. Today, the Aam Aadmi Party stands on the other side of the divide as it completes one year in power in Delhi.
Exceeding its own expectations, the AAP positioned itself as a party that represented the “aam aadmi”, a phrase coined by the Congress, which was wiped out of power. It raised issues such as lower power tariffs, free water, better schools and clean air.
The jury is out as to what extent was chief minister Arvind Kejriwal able to deliver on his promises. Experts are unanimous at least on one point: for a party that had minuscule experience in governance, the AAP is carrying the burden of unprecedented public expectations that it had raised itself.
When it comes to delivering on promises, the government has been able to ensure “Bijli half, paani maaf”, by slashing the electricity bills by half (up to 400 units) and providing free lifeline water.
Through the odd-even scheme, it tried to prove it can take tough measures.
“The government has left an impact in the eyes of the common man by delivering on its promises of subsidy on water and electricity and implementing the odd-even scheme in its first year of power,” said Sanjay Kumar, director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
But a lot is yet to be achieved and the challenges are tough.
The limitations on the government because of its unique constitutional character will ensure it has to show more political maturity if it has to meet expectations.
The Lokpal bill was only recently passed by the assembly and cannot be implemented without the Centre’s nod. The Swaraj bill, which seeks to decentralise power, another key promise, is yet to be tabled in the assembly.
With a meagre control over senior bureaucracy, the AAP government has struggled to run its writ. It is engaged in a legal battle over the anti-corruption branch (ACB), the force to cut corruption – one of the fundamental promises on which the party styled its campaign.
Law and order and safety of women may be the Centre’s domain constitutionally but having targeted its opponents for making it an excuse for their inability to deliver, the AAP can only ill-afford to make the same argument.
“When it comes to achievements, the government has four more years to go. As of now, AAP has managed to stitch together inherently contradictory groups but their solutions to deep-seated grievances are measures taken at the surface. It remains to be seen if this leads to substantial policies… Delhi is a glorified municipality and this will come in AAP’s way over and over again and it will be tough to pull through,” said Swagato Sarkar, who teaches political philosophy at Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, OP Jindal University.
On the health front, the party had promised 500 neighbourhood clinics by March 2016. But only one clinic has been set up.
By allocating the maximum share to education, the government had shown the intent to improve the public educational institutions. But as compared to the promise to revamp 957 government schools, only 54 have been selected.
Experts say the way it wants to improve quality of education is wrong. “I have seen the way learning levels of class 9 students were tested. By asking basic mathematics questions on division the government has categorized students into different levels. Such division is completely undemocratic and discriminatory. Consulting organisations like Teach for India for improving schools and learning goals is not going to help,” said educationist Anita Rampal.
The government completely failed to strengthen public transport, having failed to add even a single bus. Now, with the second phase of the odd-even scheme, it has promised to add at least 3,000 buses by the end of this year.
On pollution, the government has earned both bouquets and brickbats. Odd-even found support from the green brigade and the Supreme Court. “It is a measure several governments had thought about but this one implemented it,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre of Science and Environment.
Others called it a populist measure. “The odd-even scheme is a populist measure that plays on the guilt of the car-owning class and the lower class disgust for them,” Sarkar said.