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ByVijaylakshmi Nadar, TIO Delhi goes to polls on February 8, 2020, the first one this year and is expected to be a game-changer in Indian politics for more reasons than one.
The very first being that the electoral fight is a head to head battle between two parties, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by prime minister Narendra Modi and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) headed by Arvind Kejriwal, both presenting extremely contrasting governance models for Delhites to choose from.
The Modi government has centered its entire narrative around national issues like the implementation of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has triggered agitations throughout the country, constant references to the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, by creating a scare around Pakistan and by polarizing the vote bank. The Kejriwal government, on the other hand, is showcasing an extremely efficient governance model, focused on education, health, water, electricity, infrastructure, social welfare schemes, in a long list of achievements, all aimed to make the life of the common man a little easy, with a saving of at least a couple of thousands every month.
Ironically, both parties came to power with promises of tackling corruption. A leading cause of corruption is the source of electoral funds and the lack of transparency in it. Instead of ushering in transparency as promised, the Modi government brought in electoral bonds opposed both by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission (EC), where anybody, even foreign companies can donate any amount of money to political parties, by buying these electoral bonds and donating it to the party. The donor can stay anonymous. However, both the bank and the government are privy to their identities, automatically helping the government keep track of its donors. All criteria of who qualifies as a donor has been removed. BJP was able to corner 60 % of the electoral bonds, raising Rs 2410 crores just last year.
AAP, on the other hand, continues to hold on steadfast to its anti-corruption plank, by keeping the entire process of its funding clean. AAP is the only political party which disregards corporate funding and takes donations from individuals, through a transparent banking system. This level of transparency has scared donors away, who have been harassed by tax officials at the behest of the Modi government, for donating to AAP. The party which had aimed to raise Rs 50 crores for Delhi elections, is expected to now raise only Rs 28-30 crores.
While 70% of BJP’s funds come from anonymous sources, 100% of AAP’s funds are from known sources. AAP is the only party that had the conviction to put up the list of their donors on its website until the harassment by the Modi government.
The government has aimed to provide quality education in world-class government schools to all, which is proving to be a great leveler of the rich and poor divide, the upper-lower caste divide and the majority-minority divide. An estimated 95 % of the student population in Delhi, was deprived of quality education, with education and health never being a priority with political parties in other states as well. By giving quality education to all, AAP believes that the need for reservation too will die out in just one generation.
AAP was also successful in creating low cost but high-quality health centers, where the most expensive medical tests are offered for free, besides free consultation and medicines. It has even launched schemes to provide the most expensive surgeries for free, costs of which would earlier wipe out the savings of an entire family. Unlike other state governments, AAP does not create institutions earmarked for just the poor, which would mean downgrading their services. All citizens are considered equal, both direct and indirect tax payer’s and the same quality of services is offered to all.
Among its various flagship programs, is providing up to 20,000 liters of water-free, providing 200 units of electricity-free, free bus travel for women, free medical care for accident victims, free coaching for students to prepare for IIT-Jee, medical, engineering entrance exams, civil services, and other competitive exams, all expenses paid for pilgrimages of their choice, for senior citizens, one crore paid to the families of martyrs and police personnel who die in action, two crores earmarked for the development of each village in Delhi, double the minimum wages for the labor class, than the rest of the country, all in a long list of accomplishments in just five short years.
This governance model where there is some benefit for everyone, irrespective of the party they belong to, the religion they belong to, the caste they belong to, or the class they belong to, therefore appeals to many and will set the narrative for future elections.
Despite implementing all the welfare schemes, the Comptroller Audit General (CAG), which raps almost all state governments and the center, for flaws in their management of revenue, actually complimented the Delhi government by stating that it is the only state government in the country to have exceeded revenue surplus expectations, despite low aid (from the center) for five years in a row. A first for any state since Independence. And they made it possible by doubling their revenue from Rs 30,000 crores to Rs 60,000 crores, when all other states and centers are in the red, without increasing any taxes whatsoever.
For the very first time in the history of Independent India, a political party is seeking votes on the strength of their work in the first term, not just promises made in manifesto’s, rarely fulfilled by other political parties. AAP, on the other hand, had 70 promises on its manifesto and it fulfilled a lot more than that in its very first term. If AAP manages to win the Delhi elections, it would be a positive vote for good work, a model for pro-incumbency, and will change the narrative of future electoral battles, all over the country.
Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi