Delhi at the centre: On Kejriwal 3.0

Enthusing his admirers and infuriating detractors, Arvind Kejriwal took oath as Chief Minister of Delhi for a third time in six years. From stomping out of office after nearly 50 days of dystopian conflict with the Centre, he reoriented his approach during his five-year tenure and focused on areas within his control to improve. Consequent administrative innovations by his government improved many lives and paid him rich electoral dividends in Delhi, where he won 62 seats in the 70-member Assembly. Inaugurating the new term, he bears the burden of ballooning expectations in Delhi and beyond. Delhi’s unique status as the national capital has necessitated a diarchy in the city, where the State is forced to share authority with the Centre. Policing and most matters related to urban development are with the Centre. The Centre’s obstructionism and the Delhi government’s combativeness had slowed down critical development projects in the past. There cannot be a stronger, clearer message to the BJP and AAP from the people who chose, over two elections, the former for the Centre and the latter for Delhi — they must work together in the interest of the city. While the Centre must be magnanimous, the State must be conciliatory. Mr. Kejriwal made the right move by inviting Prime Minister Modi to his swearing-in ceremony.

With local sources of pollution remaining largely unaddressed, apart from court-ordered steps such as the permanent closure of the Badarpur thermal power plant in 2018 and the Graded Response Action Plan, the shortage of public buses remains one of the biggest concerns — for reducing pollution as well as improving urban mobility. Having made bus rides free for women, the AAP government has to now make sure there are enough buses. In its 10-point “Kejriwal Ka Guarantee Card”, the party promised Delhiites over 11,000 public buses and 500 km of Delhi Metro network. The scheme of 20,000 litres of free water to every household every month will be continued, but the quality of that supply needs to be consistent. Governments, State and Central, have spent several crores over the past decades to clean the Yamuna, but the problem remains. The Delhi government will not be able to address this problem on its own and will have to work with the Centre. Delhi has a huge housing shortage, and both governments must get their act together in implementing the long overdue land pooling policy that will provide a roof over the head for lakhs and to kick-start the sluggish sector. The Chief Minister will also need to focus on working with his counterparts in neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to deal with the city’s problems. Mr. Kejriwal has shown remarkable ability to evolve, as a politician and as an administrator. He must stay the course.

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