Sujay Mehdudia

Despite all odds, the Chief Minister managed to be in control of the situation

The year witnessed sharp differences between the party and the Government Sudden emergence of demolitions diverted the whole focus from power and water Ram Babu Sharma continued to be a major source of irritant for CM

NEW DELHI: A walkout from a party meeting that triggered off a crisis, widespread protests against fast-running electricity meters and inflated bills, increases in power charges and then a rollback, a jinxed Sonia Vihar water treatment plant, increased confrontation with the party and its chief, Ram Babu Sharma, and differences within the Council of Ministers.... All that and much more marked a tough 2005 for Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who despite all odds managed to hold her own.

And as the year came to an end, the massive demolitions carried out by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi on orders of the Delhi High Court left the Congress party completely divided. For her part, the Chief Minister managed to be in control of the situation though Mr. Ram Babu Sharma continued to be a major source of irritant for her. It was also for the first time in the last couple of years that Mr. Sharma, after his installation as DPCC president, managed to get a major say for the party and its leaders on issues relating to policy-making and governance.

However, the sharp differences within the dissident group and ego clashes gave a reprieve to Ms. Dikshit as she did not face any real threat to her leadership despite the infamous walkout from the party meeting on April 19, something that was not taken kindly to by the party high command and something which also weakened her position to a large extent.

For Ms. Dikshit the second term as Chief Minister has certainly not been smooth and the infighting and constant bickering within the party has certainly derailed the administrative process affecting decision-making in the Government. The year also saw deterioration in relations between the Sheila Dikshit Government and the Congress-ruled Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Coupled with this, the issue of power and water scarcity, inflated bills and fast-running meters aggravated matters further. The `bhagidars' of the ambitious Bhagidari scheme hit the streets in protest against power privatisation and exploitation by private power distribution companies. The privatisation of power also came in for sharp criticism by the Public Accounts Committee of the Delhi Assembly headed by Congress MLA S.C. Vats, although the loyalist MLAs did not allow finalisation of the report and its laying on the table of the House.

Then there was the controversy over privatisation of water in Delhi under a World Bank-sponsored project. Eminent citizens led by social activist and Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy objected to the World Bank project, also called 24X7, raising questions about the manner in which consultancy for the project was awarded to Price Waterhouse Cooper. The Government referred the project to the Planning Commission for its comments but in the face of intense opposition from civil society the scheme was put on hold and the loan application to the World Bank withdrawn. The jinxed Sonia Vihar water treatment plant's long wait for water continued with neighbouring Uttar Pradesh unwilling to oblige. The water treatment plant, whose construction was completed last year, has not yet started functioning.

The year also witnessed sharp differences between the party and the Government. Mr. Ram Babu Sharma made things difficult for the Chief Minister and asserted his authority and party's supremacy in various matters. However, division within the dissident ranks helped the Chief Minister who managed to sail through the year exploiting the "fluid unity'' in the rival camp. The sudden emergence of demolitions diverted the whole focus from power and water to illegal buildings and structures helping the Chief Minister to breathe easy.

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