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Shadow on Sheila, blot on Congress

The Delhi CM may now have to use all the resources at her command to defend the actions of her government over the last several years, writes Pankaj Vohra.

columns Updated: Jun 06, 2010 22:30 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

Difficult days are here for the Delhi government, which is at its wit’s end to explain its position in some sensitive cases pending before the Lok Ayukta. Though the Lok Ayukta is yet to give its verdict, the ramifications of an adverse observation could raise doubts about Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s political future in the capital over which she has presided over for over 11-and-half years.

At the centre of a major controversy is a case related to the inauguration of the Rajiv Rattan Awas Yojna on September 15, 2007. The Delhi government’s scheme was to provide four lakh flats for the urban poor and to relocate slums. While getting the scheme inaugurated by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the Delhi government appears to have been oblivious at that time that the applications were being erroneously invited from slum dwellers. Slums can be relocated only in toto and random applications from the individuals from slum clusters cannot be entertained. Second, enough land is not available for relocating the urban poor. Until now, 7,900 flats are ready for possession and the figure could reach 15,000 in another three months. In all, 2.7 lakh applications were collected by the government. It is being alleged that the fraud was committed keeping in mind the 2008 Assembly polls.

The Lok Ayukta is also seized of another contentious matter pertaining to the grant of provisional certificates for the regularisation of 1,217 unauthorised colonies out of 1,639 without verifying the status of these colonies. The Delhi government invited Sonia Gandhi for the inauguration of this programme at the Chattrassal stadium on October 4, 2008. But so far not a single colony has been regularised. Many of these colonies fall in the forest area, on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) land or are under the prohibited areas of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). But provisional certificates were issued.

In short, the schemes launched by the Delhi government without proper homework can now cause great embarrassment to the Congress president.

In addition to these two schemes, the Lok Ayukta is also probing another case of alleged misuse of government funds spent on advertisements and publicity prior to the 2008 Assembly elections. Recently, ugly scenes were witnessed when a leading BJP local leader Harsharan Singh Balli objected to the creation

of a new department, Samajik Suvidha Sangam (SSS), that he claimed was benefiting some NGOs. His objection was also because an increased provision of Rs 40 crores has been made in the government’s grants for the financial year 2010-11. The grants had earlier been enhanced from Rs 9 crores in 2008-09 to Rs 25 crores in 2009-10.

Questions are also being raised about the financial health of the government which had a surplus of Rs 11,000 crores in 2007-08. This has now been reduced to Rs 200 crores in 2010. The total expenditure on the Commonwealth Games, which was initially projected at Rs 770 crores, has now shot up to over Rs 12,000 crores.

There are other issues that could prove detrimental for the government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has already challenged the purchase of low-floor buses and has stated that the rates were exorbitant. In addition, the Delhi Jal Board, under fire for roads caving in, owes a loan of Rs 22,000 crores to the Delhi government. The Delhi government is paying Rs 2,200 crores annually on account of loans to the DJB alone.

The Delhi CM may now have to use all the resources at her command to defend the actions of her government over the last several years. Her supporters are confident that she will be able to put all these controversies to rest. Between us.

First Published: Jun 06, 2010 22:23 IST