It was 2011. Under the leadership of a frail old man, the citizens of India rose up and questioned the massive loot of public resources by the government of the day. That movement later transitioned into a political party, which won an unprecedented mandate of 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party was voted to power as a challenge to the status quo of old politics. In the three years of its governance, AAP is facing the same harassment that a normal citizen faces on the ground.
The AAP government has delivered across the board. Establishing world-class public schools and college infrastructure along with strict control of fees charged by private schools, mohalla clinics for free healthcare, water and sewer pipelines being laid across Delhi, slashing of electricity and water rates, increased minimum wages and giving the highest compensation for agricultural lands – these are just a few in a long list. The AAP-ruled Delhi government has proved to the Indian public that if you vote for the people with the right intent, public welfare is not hard to achieve.
All the above goals were achieved by the AAP government, despite being restricted on every step of the way. However, the harassment the Delhi government is currently facing is akin to the harassment faced by India’s masses whenever they dare to deal with the government. The Narendra Modi-led central government has tried to hamper the progress of Delhi, every step of the way.
The trouble began almost immediately after the AAP government took oath. At first, the central government took away their right to transfer and post public officials, thereby bringing the executive directly under its control. Next, the Anti-Corruption Bureau was snatched away from the anti-corruption government.
Under AAP’s control, the ACB had proactively arrested and taken action against corrupt officials. It awas also empowered by the Delhi High Court to take punitive actions against corrupt Delhi Police officers. Once the Narendra Modi government took over the ACB along with the paramilitary force, it has become yet another institution (under the central government) to be used for the political oppression of the Opposition.
The constitutional office of the Lieutenant Governor has been blatantly used for restricting the functioning of the Delhi government. From withholding approvals or refusals to almost every file sent to the LG’s office to using the investigation agencies to register false cases against AAP MLAs, the central government has used the LG’s office to run a parallel government to undermine the work done for the people of Delhi.
AAP has proved that it is possible to use public money for the public good. The lessons must especially be taken to heart by the other metropolitan cities of India. Mumbai, despite being the financial capital of India, ends up getting flooded every monsoon. The lakes in Bangalore are catching on fire. If the situation in our most prominent cities is so pathetic, imagine how the other Indian cities and towns are dealing with the menace of crumbling public infrastructure!
AAP was supposed to be a movement by the people of India to reclaim the Indian political space and use public money for improving the life of the public. Rather than being just another political party, it aimed to send a challenge to the people in power to stop filling up their coffers. They used the hard-earned money of the people (paid as taxes) to raise the quality of the citizens’ lives. This message has been heard loud and clear by those in power, as is evident by the replication of AAP’s flagship initiatives like mohalla clinics in states like Telangana and Karnataka.
For the citizens of India, the AAP-led Delhi government offers a vision for the future. AAP has proven that the only thing required for improving the life of the public is voting for people with good intent. It is now up to the people of Delhi to recognise who is working for them – and who’s using every means possible to derail Delhi’s unfathomable public-oriented development. Are we, as taxpayers, okay with our hard-earned money being vacuumed into private stashes? Or are we ready to stand and demand our right of a better India as envisioned by our founding fathers? This is as much our agneepariksha (trial by fire) as it is of the Arvind Kejriwal-led government to stand up for what is right.