#EkSaalKejriwal: We have achieved some things. Many more are left
The AAP year
- AAP swept to power in Delhi a year ago
- Major run-ins with the Centre has marked the year
More in the story
- Major of the govt
- What lies ahead
"I should be like a lion in a cave of savage Daniels."
Oscar Wilde said these words when he refused to attend a club function whose members were hostile to him.
With a few days to go for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to complete a year of coming to power and forming the government in Delhi, I am reminded of Wilde. Unlike him, the AAP government entertained the idea of going to a cave and face the savage Daniels.
Working in a pressure cooker-like situation, with infinitely high expectation from people and facing a hostile central government, staying afloat and delivering has been the biggest challenge for the AAP government in the last one year.
The day AAP unexpectedly won 67 seats out of 70, Arvind Kejriwal said: "It is scary." There is no denying the fact that the single-biggest challenge for the government and the party was to keep people's hope alive.
Narendra Modi has tried every trick in the book on the lines of the Gujarat model, to destabilise and unsettle the AAP government, but he did not succeed.
The office of the lieutenant governor (LG) and the police commissioner have been blatantly used to malign and discredit the government. Six members of the Legislative Assembly were arrested on frivolous charges; one minister was picked up by the Delhi Police as if he was a terrorist.
The LG, at the drop of a hat, declared government orders illegal. Every attempt was made to intimidate officers to not work for the CM, but for the central government. A case was diligently being built to sack the government and there was a time when the imposition of President's rule in Delhi was a distinct possibility. These were testing times.
Making that delicate balance is a herculian task but then revolutions are never easy
The biggest blow that Modi could inflict on the government was snatching away the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB), which has been with the Delhi government for the last 40 years. Eradication of corruption was our biggest election promise. If the ACB is not with us, it makes it very difficult to fight the menace of corruption.
But then, the government has to work. In one year, a definite alternate model of development has emerged, unlike the Modi model. The Delhi Model has majorly focussed on two core issues of public good - education and health.
The government is not averse to making flyovers, roads, malls, etc. But it believes along with the physical infrastructure, human infrastructure should also be built to make a qualitative and comprehensive change in the society.
Human capital is the biggest investment to make Delhi a world-class city. Therefore, the education budget has been increased by 106% and health budget by 45%.
In the education sector, a massive reform process has been unleashed to bring government schools on a par with private schools. All 1,011 government schools have been mapped to drastically improve infrastructure and sanitation.
AAP is operating in a system not ideal; It has to learn to live with that
In 55 schools, a leadership pilot project has been launched to train principals as they are the pivot around which school education revolves. If their quality is improved, half the battle is won. The removal of the quota system, the passage of bills for fee and admission regulation in the Assembly is an attempt to discourage educational institutions from becoming teaching shops.
Health services have been the most neglected. The idea is to make health more affordable and equitable. Mohalla clinics and poly clinics are to provide health services at the citizen's doorstep. 500 such clinics have to be opened in five years.
Then, an institutional framework has been created for private hospitals to admit patients from economically weaker sections in hospitals as per court guidelines. Making medicine and diagnostic tests available free in government hospitals is another challenge. All government hospitable has to do this now and the initial results are very encouraging.
If citizens are taken into confidence, then the most ambitious projects can be implemented
Honest governance has its own dynamics. The completion of two projects at a cost less than originally estimated was an eye opener: One flyover was completed in Rs 150 crore, while the estimated cost was Rs 250 crore. Another was done in Rs 298 crore, against a budget of Rs 426 crore.
The flagship promises on water and electricity were honoured in the first few weeks of assuming power. But the implementation of the odd-even formula has been the biggest talking point and a great learning.
Many said it would be a failure, but it turned out to be the success story of the year. The learning is that if citizens are taken into confidence, an issue is debated and discussed in the open, then even the most ambitious projects can be implemented.
But this is just one year of being in power. With every passing day people will get impatient and incumbency will start setting in.
The challenges ahead
The biggest challenge will be to manage people's expectation and make people believe that change is happening. AAP should not forget that in politics perception is bigger than reality.
Second, the AAP government is operating in a system that is not ideal and not of their own making. So, one has to learn to live with that.
Third, the government has to win the confidence of bureaucrats. Most of them are good and want to contribute in a positive way, but a few create problems due to their political alignments and also due to future career prospects. The rotten fish have to be weeded out and the good ones have to be empowered.
There have been many blows, but the government has to work
Fourth, the party has set a very high standard. AAP leaders, MLAs, MPs and volunteers can't afford to behave like members of other traditional parties. Our conduct has to be above suspicion and distinctly different.
Election in Punjab is a year away. Like Delhi that state is ready to adopt AAP. People have similar hopes.
But that dream will be reality only if the "lion" is not perceived to be either caged or fighting all the time. Some times the "lion" has to be seen to make friends with the savage Daniels without compromising on principles.
Making that delicate balance is a Herculean task but then revolutions are never easy.
Edited by Joyjeet Das