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Public auditor to scan power firms’ finances

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The Aam Aadmi Party government today ordered a CAG audit of the finances of Delhi’s private power distributors, a day after announcing a 50 per cent tariff cut through subsidies for over half the consumers.

“The lt governor (of Delhi) has given the orders… the CAG has said it will do the audit. The audit will begin from tomorrow,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said after his cabinet took the decision, fulfilling yet another election promise of the AAP.

The AAP government, supported by the Congress, faces a trust vote tomorrow. The AAP has 28 MLAs and the Congress eight in the 70-member House.

Kejriwal has been repeatedly saying he “only has 48 hours in power”, hinting that Congress could withdraw support and seeking to justify the rapid-fire announcements of sops that included free water for some.

His government had given BSES Yamuna Power Ltd, BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd time till this morning to explain why there should not be a CAG audit.

Asked about their reply, Kejriwal said: “Nobody has given any reason why there should not be an audit.” He had during the polls campaign accused the firms of falsely showing losses.

Today, he said the audit would go back to the time when power distribution was privatised over a decade ago. The chief minister rejected suggestions the decision could not be taken as the matter was sub judice. “No stay has been granted.”

Kejriwal said the previous Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government had “misled” the people by citing the case. “What the previous government could not do in four years, we have done in four days.”

Sources in the CAG said they had “no hesitation” in taking up the job. The CAG Act of 1971 provides for audit of private companies if it involves substantial government investments. A key rider is that such an audit should be ordered after consultation with the CAG. Kejriwal had met CAG Shashi Kant Sharma yesterday.

This evening, one of the firms circulated a purported letter of the CAG dating back to 2002 against appointing public auditors for private entities. But CAG sources said there may not have been a formal request from the lt governor, as required under law.

The audit move came on a day Kejriwal’s power sops appeared to have caught up with the Congress. The party’s government in Haryana slashed power tariffs for a section of users through subsidies. Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam sought similar cuts in home state Maharashtra.

“I am very happy. We will teach them politics,” Kejriwal smiled when asked the effect of the AAP’s policies on rivals. The Kejriwal government’s tariff reductions are for consumers with monthly consumption up to 400 units.

The next two days are crucial. After the trust vote tomorrow, the AAP faces a battle over the Speaker. The BJP is likely to field its candidate and a section of the Congress wants to support him instead of the AAP nominee.

But sources confirmed that the Congress had cracked down on such plans and told its MLAs the AAP candidate must be supported and that the Kejriwal government should not be “destabilised”.

MLA and Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely had said earlier today it was “premature” to say whether the Congress would support AAP’s Maninder Singh Dhir. “AAP has not asked us yet for support.” But Lovely clarified the Congress would stick to its stand of lending the AAP outside support.

This is the first time there could be voting for the Speaker’s post in Delhi.

The BJP has 32 MLAs and cannot see its candidate through unless a few Congress legislators support.

“In the past when we had even fewer legislators we have fought the election so there will be nothing new,” senior BJP MLA and possible Speaker candidate Jagdish Mukhi said.

The third candidate is Shoaib Iqbal, the lone the JD (United) MLA.