New Delhi, Dec. 31: Arvind Kejriwal’s government today halved power tariffs for consumers who use up to 400 units a month, delivering on yet another pre-election promise ahead of what appeared to be a 48-hour race against the clock.
“We only have 48 hours in power,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader, who came across as a man in a hurry in the run-up to the trust vote later this week, said.
Delhi’s new chief minister also said he wanted to do the “maximum good” for the people, whether his government survived or not.
The tariff slash, which Kejriwal said would cost the exchequer Rs 61 crore, came a day after the AAP government announced 20,000 litres of water free of cost to every household in the capital.
The successive-day subsidies mean the government has to foot an additional yearly bill of Rs 101 crore, including Rs 40 crore for the water subsidy.
“We are not bothered whether the government survives or not. We are running the government assuming that we have just 48 hours with us. We want to do the maximum good to the people if we can in this time,” Kejriwal told reporters.
Asked if he was worried, he retorted: “Hume darr nahi hain (we don’t have fear).”
Kejriwal said it was the BJP and the Congress that were worried and that they wouldn’t let his minority government function.
The AAP, which has 28 legislators in the 70-member Assembly, is being backed by the Congress, which has eight MLAs.
Kejriwal announced the 50 per cent slash in monthly power tariffs for domestic consumers who use 400 units of electricity or less. The tariff has not been lowered; the government will foot half the bill through subsidy.
“We have 54 lakh metered consumers in Delhi and this will impact 28 lakh out of them,” Kejriwal said. “Theoretically it will cost the government Rs 200 crore (every year), but private power firms already owe the government Rs 4,500 crore. We will set off Rs 139 crore against this and the government will only pay Rs 61 crore from its pocket,” he clarified.
The new tariff will be applicable from January 1.
Tuesday also saw Kejriwal meet government auditor Shashi Kant Sharma to discuss a possible audit of private power distribution firms in the capital. The power firms have been given time till tomorrow to submit objections against the CAG audit.
“We are confident that once the audit is conducted the government will no longer have to pay subsidy,” Kejriwal said. His contention is power firms have been falsely showing losses in their accounts and that the tariff can be brought down.
The real test for the AAP government begins tomorrow, the first day of the Assembly session, as a power struggle has been going on over the Speaker’s post. It will be the first time in 15 years that the Delhi Speaker will have to be chosen through a vote.
There was a tug-of-war even over the figurehead post of pro tem Speaker who merely conducts the official swearing-in of new MLAs. The norm is the senior-most member of the House is selected as the pro tem Speaker.
The first offer had been made to Jagdish Mukhi, but the five-time BJP legislator declined. “Our party has decided that no BJP MLA will accept this post in the present circumstances,” Mukhi said.
A pro tem Speaker cannot contest for the Speaker’s post.
The AAP had then approached Congress MLA Mateen Ahmed, who has accepted the offer. Three contenders are in the fray for the Speaker’s post. They are Mukhi, M.S. Dhir of the AAP and JD(U)’s Shoaib Iqbal.