Did Kejriwal Mislead People Over ‘Bijli Satyagraha’?

The Delhi government on Tuesday told the high court that the AAP government did not allocate any funds to finance the Rs 6 crore subsidy that it had announced for those who did not pay their electricity bills from October 2012 to May 2013.

When Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal and his coterie were preparing for their political debut, they started Bijli Satyagraha against the alleged inflated electricity bills and problems in the electricity meter. They asked the entire state not to pay their electricity bills.

Ten lakh people had signed a petition by AAP against payment of electricity bills. Kejriwal even had visited some homes where power supply had been cut because of pending payments and restored the connection.

“Rates of electricity will be slashed to half, we will change the entire system of electricity distribution which is at present being manipulated by power discoms,” Yogendra Yadav had said while releasing the party manifesto.

Cheaper electricity was a big plank which was suppose to earn them votes. And it certainly did.

Within a day after coming to power, as promised, Kejriwal had announced slashing of power tariff by 50 percent. He had even asked Comptroller and Auditor General to audit the three discoms in Delhi so that he can take further action. This started a tussle between the discoms and the AAP government.

By the end of Janary, the stand-off took such a bad shape that people of Delhi suffered. People lived under the fear of possible indefinite blackout because NTPC had practically threatened to switch off about 500 MW of supply to east and central Delhi where BSES Yamuna Power (BYPL) provides power since the latter had not paid its dues worth Rs 179.68 crore.

NTPC had informed the whole situation to Kejriwal while alleging that BYPL had been repeatedly slipping up in meeting its dues for power purchases.

In response, BYPL had claimed the slippage is a result of several factors, primarily because the state government led by Kejriwal at that time had encouraged customers not to pay bills.  This had compounded BYPL’s financial problems which had also asked the state government to give it a bail-out package to pay dues to NTPC.

But Kejriwal took no action at that time. In fact, On February 12, he took the decision to provide 50 percent waiver on pending bills of 24,036 power consumers, and also decided to waive off the penalties for default. The estimated loss to public exchequer because of the move was estimated around Rs.6 crore.

But the twist in the tale is that Kejriwal probably mislead the aam aadmi over his power subsidy.

A PIL was filed in the Delhi High Court last month against the decision of Kejrial government on the waiver scheme for 24,036 consumers, who had stopped paying their dues during the satyagraha. The PIL filed by advocate Vivek Narayan Sharma had also sought quashing the Delhi government’s decision to close power theft cases registered against 2,508 consumers last year.

The plea had said that such action of the government was like “sponsoring and abetting criminal/terrorism acts and acts against rule of law and constitution”. About 24,036 power consumers in Delhi had stopped paying their power bills in Delhi, reportedly from October 2012 to December 2013. During this period, the authorities disconnected a total of 2,508 electricity meters for non-payment of bills and these people started to steal power. The PIL had said numerous theft cases were initiated and are pending in the courts.

Interestingly, during the hearing of the case, the Delhi government on Tuesday told the high court that the AAP government did not allocate any funds to finance the Rs 6 crore subsidy that it had announced for those who did not pay their electricity bills from October 2012 to May 2013.

According to Daily Mail, filing the affidavit on behalf of the Delhi government, Madhu Sudan, deputy secretary of power, told the court, “The competent authority of the government had not made any provision in the budget for release of funds for the purpose and in the absence of the availability of funds, therefore, in the present circumstances, it is not possible to implement the decision of the cabinet for providing relief to the electricity consumers who stopped paying their bills anytime between October 2012 and May 2013 till December 2013.”

In other words, no one was to benefit from the scheme for the sheer lack of funds.

If memory serves well, during that time of crisis, Kejriwal moved on to his personal favourite Janlokpal Bill because of his problems with the Congress and BJP. In fact he resigned from his post the day the PIL was filed, that is February 14.

Although he announced his resignation over the problems in Delhi Vidhan Sabha over Janlokpal, it was pretty much an expected move as his desperation for Lok Sabha was evident.

So, was Kejriwal only misleading the people of Delhi?

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