AAP’s day in the sun

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has clearly indicated that he is a man in a hurry. Even before assuming office on Saturday, he had placed before Prime Minister Narendra Modi his government’s priorities. His tenor was conciliatory, his arguments seemingly reasonable while he took care not to include in his Ministry controversial Ministers from his first tenure. In his inaugural speech as Chief Minister, Mr. Kejriwal said he impressed on Mr. Modi the point that Delhi would not prosper without “constructive cooperation” between the Centre and the State. The unstated part of Mr. Kejriwal’s message was that he intended to set the agenda for Delhi. Yet the AAP’s demand for full statehood — that, if accepted, would give the Delhi government control over two critical areas of governance, land and the police — will be contentious, not least because the Centre would be loath to give more powers — and greater independence of action — to the new AAP regime. Mr. Kejriwal has already broached the subject with Mr. Modi, who has been non-committal. This is an issue that has larger dimensions, and it remains to be seen how it unfolds in the dynamics of relations between the AAP and the Modi government.

Having come to power primarily on an anti-corruption plank, Mr. Kejriwal’s first goal will be to enact the controversial Lokpal Bill. The failure to clear it in his first stint in office had made him take the ill-judged step to quit. Now, with 67 MLAs in a 70-seat Assembly, Mr. Kejriwal should have no problem pushing it through but, after that, it will require ratification by the Centre. How that turns out depends on the BJP’s disposition. The last time, the 32 BJP MLAs in the Delhi Assembly had opposed the Bill. While senior AAP leaders have indicated that the party has learnt from its first innings in power that a path of confrontation has its limits, the likelihood of flashpoints in the coming months cannot be ruled out as the tussle for the control of Delhi continues. In governance terms, what can Mr. Kejriwal do without getting full statehood? He may be able to reduce electricity and water tariffs, but will remain dependent on neighbouring States and the Centre for supply. He may also be able to fulfil his promises on education if funds are forthcoming, and certainly he can make a difference in reducing everyday corruption. Going forward, with the heightened public expectations of the AAP as the party of the common person, Mr. Kejriwal must demonstrate that his is a government with a difference. He should take transparent steps to unveil a governance structure emphasising accountability and accessibility. That is the real hope that the AAP embodies to thousands of its well-wishers.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 4:02:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-aaps-day-in-the-sun/article6898852.ece

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