Supporters of bitter rivals Aam Aadmi Party and BJP hit the streets on Saturday welding brooms and pledging to clean the city but failed to impress residents, a day after 15,000 sanitation workers called off a crippling strike that triggered a health crisis.
Angry locals in east Delhi, who have been choked by rotting piles of garbage for the past two weeks, accused the AAP of indulging in petty politics instead of focusing on civic issues. The tirade forced several party leaders to beat a hasty retreat.
The cleanliness drive, announced hours after safai karmacharis returned to work on Friday evening, failed miserably in Krishna Nagar. Residents jeered at senior AAP leader Ashish Khetan and questioned him about the timing of the mission. Veterans Manish Sisodia, Ashutosh and Alka Lamba also had similar experiences in other parts of the city.
The Congress too taunted Delhi’s ruling party, a day after its vice-president Rahul Gandhi met striking municipal workers and assured them support.
“AAP starts cleanliness drive after Sanitation Workers strike has been called off. Photo ops for AAP. Modi and Kejriwal are Masters of ‘nautanki’,” senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted.
Not to be left behind, the BJP, led by city president Satish Upadhyay, cleaned up areas near Akshardham Metro station and Shyamlal College in east Delhi, where overflowing vats have spilled onto major thoroughfares.
Sanitation workers picked up over 5,000 tonnes of garbage in more than 1,000 truck trips on Saturday after a 12-day strike over salaries left unpaid for months, in part due to a protracted tussle between chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung.
They returned to work after Jung ordered the release of Rs 493 crores to pay the workers their dues as the AAP and the BJP, which rules the city’s municipal corporations, blamed each other for the impasse.
“Due to Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) dirty politics of stalling funds, east Delhi has witnessed the worst ever sanitation crisis”, said Upadhyay. But the AAP quickly hit back, dubbing the protests as staged by BJP supporters.
As the parties squabble over the Capital’s hygiene, civic agency sources said the money announced on Friday would barely tide over the current crisis and might return to haunt the corporations if more funds were not released, either by the AAP government or Centre.
But chances of that appear slim as both the AAP and BJP have added the sanitation issue to their ongoing tussle over administrative control of the city. The stench in Delhi’s air, it seems, is here to stay.