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AAP govt’s advisory body was reduced to an inquiry panel: Ashish Khetan

Once a close aide of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Ashish Khetan on Wednesday announced his decision to quit AAP for “personal reasons”. His exit came barely a week after another senior leader, Ashutosh, resigned from AAP citing the same reason.

delhi Updated: Aug 25, 2018 09:48 IST
Sweta Goswami and Ashish Mishra
Sweta Goswami and Ashish Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
AAP,Ashish Khetan,Arvind Kejriwal
Ashish Khetan had been the vice-chairperson of the DDCD since its formation on February 27, 2015 until he resigned from the post in April this year.(HT File Photo)

Two days after announcing his resignation from the party, former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Ashish Khetan expressed his displeasure at the changing role of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD) over the years.

Khetan said the role of DDCD, the planning and advisory body of the AAP government, had changed from being a “knowledge power house” to merely being an “inquiry commission”. Khetan had been the vice-chairperson of the DDCD since its formation on February 27, 2015 until he resigned from the post in April this year.

Once a close aide of Kejriwal, Khetan on Wednesday announced his decision to quit AAP for “personal reasons”. His exit came barely a week after another senior leader, Ashutosh, resigned from AAP citing the same reason.

While chief minister Arvind Kejriwal continues to be the DDCD’s chairperson, the Delhi government is yet to appoint a new person to the post. The fate of the DDCD is itself in a limbo as the nine-member commission has not held a single meeting in at least eight months.

“The first two years (in DDCD) was a lot of work. We used to have meetings from 8 in the morning to 12 in the night. But after that, things really slowed down and almost everything came to a standstill. DDCD then shifted to its second phase, which was all about enquiry and investigating files. It was with the need of the time. But, personally I wanted to do a lot more,” he said.

Citing examples of works coming completely to a halt in the public works department (PWD) and problems in disbursing scholarships to SC/ST/OBC and minorities, 42-year old Khetan said the government asked DDCD to fix accountability among officers.

“With such short staff, we were pouring over reams and reams of files. In government, nobody reads files. We were trying to fix responsibility, which is also important. But I believe that was not the mandate. The original vision was that it (DDCD) would act as a knowledge power house, a centre of ideas,” he said.

In October last year, the commission, in a report prepared by Khetan, had blamed then PWD secretary Ashwani Kumar for causing “inordinate delay” in constructing the much-delayed Barapullah Phase-III elevated corridor. The project, construction of which started in 2015, was to be completed in October 2017, but missed the deadline because of problems in land acquisition at two locations.

Khetan, though, acknowledged that the DDCD’s recommendations had little locus-standi in terms of the government implementing them as the body was only a “think tank”. He said “a lot of work” and “many reports” of the DDCD remained “undocumented”.

The commission includes the deputy chief minister, the chief secretary, principal secretary (planning), secretary to the CM and a member secretary. Two other experts nominated by Kejriwal are also in the commission. The perks and privileges enjoyed by the V-C is equivalent to a cabinet rank.

But it has not been an easy road for the commission until now. Throughout 2015, the government had a run-in with the India Against Corruption (IAC) team, from where AAP broke out as a political party.

The IAC, which has a similar body, accused the government of stealing the name Delhi Dialogue Commission from them. Later, in April 2016, the government relented and rechristened the body with a new name, the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD).

The commission faced another problem in August 2016 when the six consultants appointed as domain experts were sacked for not having the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor.

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 02:42 IST