Aam Aadmi Party MLA from New Delhi Arvind Kejriwal has blown up his entire annual development fund of Rs. 4 crore, earmarking it for more than a dozen projects including toilets, badminton courts, ping pong tables, CCTVs and gyms.
The AAP chief along with the party’s 26 other MLAs have all been working hard to woo voters and rebuild the party after its poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls.
New Delhi is arguably one of the most developed constituencies, and these tiny public utility projects may not actually make much of a difference. But the party can go to the people with a ‘we worked for you’ record ahead of possible elections in early 2015.
In about a month (between May and June), the former Delhi CM held 47 mohalla sabhas to consult locals on how the MLA fund should be spent. The other 26 have also been holding similar meetings.
But since AAP has only 27 seats, the move may have a limited impact on the poll outcome. More so since nearly 75% of the city’s 67 MLAs across parties have started work in their constituencies and quite a few have managed to exhaust their funds in less than two months.
IIT alumnus Gopal Mohan, who manages Kejriwal’s poll campaign, told HT, “We had a long list of projects that officers said would need Rs. 10 crore to execute. Party volunteers, especially IIT and IIM alumni, did online comparing and consultations, and confronted the babus and made sure these works would be done in Rs. 4 crore.”
“Costing has been a cause for concern. Officers said one CCTV camera would cost Rs, 50,000, we found a branded one for Rs. 5,000. Similarly, we managed to bring down the cost of a small gym from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 2 lakh,” said Mohan.
AAP sent project proposals to civic agencies on July 15. Estimates were ready in 15 days and were sent to the urban development department, which has sanctioned the projects. “Tenders will be floated and work will start soon,” said Mohan.
But not everyone is impressed. Praveen Kumar, a resident of BK Dutt Colony, said, “I have heard of these mohalla sabhas only in media reports. We were never asked for any suggestions. There seems to be more hype than substance in these activities.”
New Delhi constituency includes Gole Market, Jor Bagh, Sarojini Nagar, Mandi House, Golf Link, Lodi Estate, Kidwai Nagar, BK Dutt Colony and Laxmibai Nagar.
Ashok Randhawa, a resident of Sarojini Nagar, said, “As it is NDMC is a posh area and doesn’t face many problems. I never saw any mohalla sabha either.”
Pawan Vaishya, a trader in CP, echoed similar sentiments. “Kejriwal may be doing it in select areas. But we were not allowed to take part in what he calls participatory democracy.”