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Kejriwal has hectic first day; gets busy with poll promises, transfers 9 top officials

HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 28, 2013
First Published: 20:59 IST(28/12/2013) | Last Updated: 13:55 IST(5/1/2014)

In a bid to implement the rookie party’s promises, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took marathon meetings with top officials, chaired his cabinet and kept meeting mediapersons within minutes of taking charge on Saturday.

Since the new government is not sure of continued support from the Congress, the ministers in Kejriwal’s cabinet seemed to be in a fast-forward mode, trying to make as much impact as possible.

“See we don’t know how long this government will last,” admitted minister Girish Soni. The chief minister has to prove his majority in the state assembly by January 3.

Read: Kejriwal takes oath as Delhi CM, says there will be no witch-hunt against bureaucrats

Day One of Delhi’s new chief minister was as hectic as it could get. Since AAP has promised to slash power bills by 50%, he met the power department officials asking them various ways to do so. He even transferred the power secretary. 

He frequently spoke to the head of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and ended up transferring her. AAP has promised free water to each household if it consumes up to 700 litres daily and no more, something which is a daunting task.

Sensing simmering anger amongst auto rickshaw drivers over a 10% hike in CNG prices announced on Thursday, Kejriwal along with his transport minister and transport commissioner met officials from Indraprastha Gas Limited.

According to sources, IGL officials told the chief minister, subsidy was the only way out. Auto drivers in the city, who form a huge section of his supporters, have threatened a strike.

Read: Delhi, know your 'Aam Aadmi' cabinet

Kejriwal reached the Delhi Secretariat at around 2 pm in his blue WagonR car and found a battery of journalists waiting to ask: How will he bring in changes overnight?

The CM said by Monday the government will announce several decisions on the issues. The Delhi police commissioner also visited the CM on how they will work together in ensuring a safer environment for people especially women. After the oath-taking ceremony, Kejriwal and AAP legislators held their first cabinet meeting and they are expected to work even on Sunday.

Even,BJP MLA Satya Prakash Rana, whose constituency has been reeling under water shortage for years met the chief minister and said it would be better to provide water to those areas which do not get regular supply rather than providing free water.

Read: Decision on power tariff, free water next week, says Kejriwal


DJB head transferred for opposing free water move

Heads rolled on Kejriwal’s first day as Delhi’s chief minister with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) CEO Debashree Mukherjee being transferred on Saturday.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party had been voted to power in the Capital on a wave of promises, including providing 700 litres of free water per household, and the new chief minister made it clear right from Day One that he was serious about fulfilling his commitments.

A special board meeting of the Delhi Jal Board will also be held on Monday to discuss and clear the proposal of providing 700 litres free water per connection daily.

Kejriwal first heard out an introductory presentation about the DJB during a meeting with CEO Mukherjee and her team. He then initiated a discussion about how those staying in unauthorised colonies can benefit from the proposed 700 litres free water per day promise.

“Kejriwal said all such connections, that as it is drew water, can be legalised. But the CEO tried to defend DJB’s position and warned about the financial implication to the tune of Rs. 118 crore. The CM countered it by saying that the amount could be taken care of by the Rs. 30 crore quarterly subsidy,” sources said.

Read: Kejriwal to seek trust vote on January 2

Against a requirement of more than 1,000 million gallons per day (MGD) water, Delhi generates about 835 MGD water from all sources. Piped water is supplied to only planned and authorised colonies. The DJB has approximately 19 lakh connections.

But when Mukherjee reportedly continued to spell out possible problems, including how people will tend to waste free water, and tried to dissuade the CM, Kejriwal ordered her transfer out of the DJB.

Mukherjee was transferred as the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) CMD, officials said.

Apart from the promise of 700 litres free water per household daily as per the AAP manifesto, Kejriwal had during campaigning repeatedly referred to allegations of corruption in DJB’s various schemes including the public private partnership (PPP) model for over hauling of water redistribution in three prominent areas across Delhi.

Chasing his promises of a corruption-free Delhi with better civic amenities, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader held his first cabinet meeting, issuing a decree against government officials and ministers using red beacons in their vehicles.

“No minister or official in Delhi government will use red beacons,” a top official said.

Read: Kejriwal to seek trust vote on Jan 2

A fortnight ago, the Supreme Court had come down heavily on the unauthorised use of red lights meant for top dignitaries holding constitutional posts.

After taking the oath of office and secrecy at Ramlila Maidan, Kejriwal and his six newly appointed ministers — Manish Sisodia, Somnath Bharti, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Rakhi Birla, Girish Soni and Satender Jain— headed for the Delhi secretariat via Rajghat, where they paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal pays homage at Rajghat in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

Even as wishes poured in —anti-graft activist Anna Hazare and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the new CM— Kejriwal did not take a break.

He distributed portfolios among his ministers, keeping the key home, power, planning, finance, services and vigilance departments. He also met Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi.

Read: Kejriwal cabinet gets bureaucrats to assist them

The USP of the AAP’s first day in power was its stand against anti-VIP culture, an issue the rookie party has stressed time and again.

AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal takes charge as Delhi chief minister at Delhi secretariat in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

Kejriwal arrived at Barakhamba in the heart of the city in a Delhi Metro train. From there, he headed for the swearing-in venue, Ramlila Maidan, in a car. Kejriwal on Monday had refused ‘Z’ category security after staking claim to the government.

Kejriwal, who has promised to slash power tariff by 50% and provide free water to each household using 700litre a day, sought the help of people to root out corruption in Delhi.

Delivering a speech after taking oath, Kejriwal pledged to fight graft with the help of Delhi residents.  He, however, assured there would be no witch-hunting against bureaucrats.

Read: Decision on power tariff, free water next week: Kejriwal

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal speaks to media at secretariat building in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

“I told bureaucrats to work with honesty. The bureaucracy is a bit worried. I told them that honest people need not be scared,” he said after the cabinet meeting.

The Congress, the BJP and Left parties congratulated Kejriwal, hoping that the new government will “live up to the expectations”.

Read: Street children send list of demands to Kejriwal

The AAP, with 28 legislators, depends on the outside support of the eight Congress MLAs to form a stable government. With 32 seats, the BJP is the single largest party in the 70-member House.

The chief minister will have to prove majority by January 3. However, Kejriwal did not seem bothered about the floor test. “I’m not worried. This is a minor issue. If we don’t get it (majority), we will go for a re-election and win again,” Kejriwal said after taking oath.

Read: As AAP shines in Delhi, hope and hot air float in Patna

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal talks on a phone as he is seated to assume the office of the chief minister of Delhi in New Delhi. (AP Photo)

(With inputs from Neelam Pandey, Darpan Singh, Nivedita Khandekar)


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