While the AAP held the Congress and the BJP responsible for the end of the power subsidy schemes, its rival parties accused the AAP of “betraying the people of Delhi”.
Power consumers who were given a 50 per cent rebate on power bills if their consumption was up to 400 units per month will now have to pay the total amount as the Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to extend the benefit beyond March 31.
Delhi Lak Satta Party chief Anurag Kejriwal had urged the Court to pass a direction to the Delhi Government to frame a scheme to ensure that underprivileged power consumers were not denied the power subsidy granted by the erstwhile Aam Aadmi Party government last year.
A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul refused to pass any direction to the government, saying it was a policy matter and the Court would not interfere in it.
The Bench directed the petitioner to approach the government with a representation requesting it to extend the subsidy.
The petitioner sought continuation of the subsidy till a government was elected. At present, the Delhi Assembly is in suspended animation. The AAP government had resigned after 49 days in power due to which the annual budget could not be passed, the petitioner submitted.
End of subsidy gets mixed response
The end of the power subsidy scheme, which has been in force in Delhi since January 2014, elicited a mixed response from consumers.
While some termed it an “end to some relief at a time when people are battling spiralling inflation”, others claimed that they were “not much bothered”.
Tarakant, a washerman in Bhogal, was not very happy with the end of the scheme. He regarded the tariff reduction as “the biggest achievement” of the AAP government. “I voted for the AAP because of this promise. Had the Congress and the BJP wanted, in the interest of public, they would have decided to extend the power subsidy,” he said.
Himanshu, a property broker in Jangpura, however, did not mind the tariff hike. “I do not see any reason why the government should subsidise the tariff because it is in our control how much we want to use,” he said.
Mohammed Fasir, a resident of Bawana, said withdrawal of the power subsidy would not make much difference as the tariff is already high. “My last bill was around Rs.800. Earlier, I used to pay around Rs.1,000. It has not changed much,” he said.
Parties play blame game over schemes’ failure
With the general election just round the corner, political parties reacted sharply to the ending of power and water subsidy schemes on Tuesday. While the AAP held the Congress and the BJP responsible for the end of the schemes, its rival parties accused the AAP of “betraying the people of Delhi”.
“The BJP and the Congress cannot escape the joint responsibility of increasing the hardships of the people of Delhi by putting an end to the relief provided by the AAP. When the Congress-led UPA Government introduced Delhi’s interim Budget in Parliament and made no provision in it for continuing the subsidy for electricity bills and free water beyond March 31, the BJP readily supported and got the Budget passed,” the AAP said in a statement.
The allegation was countered by Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh who said “the AAP leaders are in the habit of telling lies”. “Had we not supported in passing the Appropriation Bill in the Delhi Assembly, the people would not have got subsidy even during the last few months. If the AAP Government was serious on the issue of subsidy, why did it not make a provision for it till September,” he said. Senior BJP leader and party’s Delhi campaign committee chairman Prof. V.K. Malhotra slammed the AAP leaders for crying foul over the issue.
“Now, Mr. Kejriwal is shedding crocodile tears and enacting a drama by meeting the Lieutenant-Governor to cover up his betrayal. If there is no provision of subsidy in the Budget, then how would the L-G provide subsidy?” he asked.