Arvind Kejriwal may like the entire world to believe that his odd-even formula was aimed at ‘saving Delhi from terminal pollution’ but in reality he has unleashed a class war between the haves and have-nots in Delhi and by all accounts, it has reaped rich dividends for him.
Owning a car in the National Capital these days is almost a crime and one has to be in a permanent state of readiness to bow to the whims of Aam Admi Party government unless one is ready to pay a heavy penalty.
But since the Chief Minister is a paragon of kindness, he has mercifully limited the penance of one-car owners to just 15 days, even though an AAP government-commissioned survey claims nearly 60 per cent Delhiites want the formula to be enforced permanently.
The second phase of odd-even formula will commence in next financial year from 15-30 April, soon after the Class 12 board exams.
Kejriwal claims that 81 per cent Delhiites wanted the formula to be repeated at regular intervals. If that is true, the AAP supremo has inspired a phenomenal increase in his supporter base and is set to sweep all kinds of elections for many, many years to come.
AAP had secured 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly with 54.3 per cent votes.
The key question is — who voted in AAP government’s survey, what was the sample size and from which strata?
Were the voters from that segment who owns a car? Were they big car owners, small car owners, or owners of bikes and other two wheelers?
Typically, an upwardly mobile middle class would include several segments. Those who own smaller cars would aspire for a bigger one and those who own two-wheelers aspire for a four-wheeler. And there exists barely concealed animosity between these social segments.
During his tenure as Chief Minister, Lalu Yadav used under-development as a political strategy by claiming that road-building would benefit only the upper caste/class or car owners and work against the interests of backwards/EBCs/dalits.
Lalu’s tactics evidently worked as he remained in power for 15 years.
New-age leader Kejriwal’s lingo may be different but his inherent strategy isn’t too far removed from Lalu Yadav’s cynical politics.
If enforced more frequently, his odd-even formula may force single-car owners to drive for only 182-183 days in a calendar year. That may not solve the pollution problem but at least provide some vicarious pleasure for those who think travelling in car is some sort of an elitist crime against nature.
The Chief Minister would face no logistical problems though because between him and deputy Manish Sisodia, there will always be one odd or even-numbered car to pick them up from office and drop them home.
A study done by an NGO IndiaSpend revealed that the pollution level actually went up during the first phase of odd-even, enforced during 1-15 January.
Yes, traffic congestion did come down. But was odd-even about reducing pollution or reducing traffic congestion?
Also, the Chief Minister must ponder over limiting odd-even to just car owners.
Why shouldn’t there be rationing on petrol and diesel for cars and SUVs? Or on size of houses, owning of jewelleries, limit on salary bracket, perfumes and so on?
The result would be same or even better in terms of approval rating that he got for odd-even. He may also bring private school fees under its ambit.
What Kejriwal is doing is simple. By going public with massive ad campaigns in print, TV and radio (on tax payers’ money) he is unleashing a war between haves and have-nots and posing himself as a Messiah for the latter.
And he also has the support of so-called ‘progressives’. Why should he care for that hopeless 19 per cent who are opposed to odd-even?