By doling out free rides for women in city buses on Bhai Dooj, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal proves yet again he understands the capital city’s changing political landscape well and is adapting his politics to fit into it.
Since inception, Kejriwal’s politics has hardly been related to issues of caste, creed and religion while in contrast, the issues related to the lives of the poor has been his forte. In fact, his rise to prominence in the capital city’s politics was on the plank of issues related to the rise in electricity tariffs and water supply, which immediately connects with the poor.
In the last five years since he became the chief minister of Delhi with a landslide victory in 2015, a lot has changed in the capital city’s political terrain.
The capital city’s political landscape was earlier fertile with issues related to the corruption-induced hardships faced by the commoner, which he ploughed to reap a rich harvest. Now the same terrain houses hurdle like Hindutva and nationalism for him.
The very fact that the BJP has won every single election in Delhi after the 2015 Assembly polls suggest the tectonic shift in the city’s politics.
The promise of welfare and development has hardly any proven track record as an answer to the rising hysteria of Hindutva and nationalism fanned by the BJP. In fact, the opposition to date has no answer to this phenomenon.
No wonder that the scheme of free bus ride to women announced by Kejriwal on the day of Bhai Dooj, packaging it as a gift on the occasion is in the lines of a religious ritual.
While announcing the new offer, Kejriwal invoked the importance of Bhai Dooj, the Hindu festival that celebrates the bonding between brothers and sisters saying, “Today is Bhai Dooj. Warm greetings to all my sisters in Delhi, from their brother. There is very good news for all my sisters. From today, all women can travel free in all DTC and cluster buses. You do not need to purchase a ticket. I believe this will help you immensely.”
Although the AAP had taken the plunge into the political platform claiming itself to be a party with a difference, however, in the last five years the difference the party has made is marked by freebies in areas related to the primary needs of the poor, who constitute a major chunk of the party’s voters.
Be it providing free health care in hospitals and Mohalla clinics, free water supply, free electricity to urban poor, Kejriwal has left no stone unturned to nourish his voter base by exploiting the city government’s rich cash reserves to the hilt.
His detractors often say that in the last five years in power Kejriwal has done what he does best -- freebie politics. The chief minister also managed to widen the revenue net of the Delhi government in the last five years by Rs 20, 000 crore and spent a chunk of it in freebies.
By throwing another freebie of free bus ride to women with an emotional message on Bhai Dooj when the election is around the corner, Kejriwal shows that he has not only perfected his politics but also mastered the art of coating it with a soft appeal of Hindutva.
It is not surprising that his repeated announcement of free offers to voters have left the opposition perturbed.
SP Bagga, a leader in the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in the Delhi BJP expressed his displeasure over the new scheme.
“If the Delhi chief minister really wanted to provide free rides to women, then why declare it when the election is only two months away? If the Delhi government wants equality between genders than why freebie only to women? Moreover announcing free rides when the Delhi Transport Corporation is incurring losses only shows that the Delhi government is using funds allotted by the Centre for the ruling party’s political benefit. Why is the Delhi government not giving credit to the Centre?” he asked.
Irrespective of what the opposition says, the scheme has hit the right chord with the core voters of the AAP.
Rachna, a woman who lives in a Jhuggi Jhopdi colony at Timarpur in Delhi and works as a maid says that the new scheme would save her Rs 900 per month, which is a big chunk of her income.
“Every morning I travel to Kingsway camp, my workplace by bus. It costs me Rs 30 travelling to and fro every day. The money the new scheme would help me save would take care of some of the needs of my children,” she said.
Rachna is a mother of two school-going kids and her husband is physically disabled after he met an accident a few years back.
The Delhi Transport Corporation buses are the cheapest means of public transport which has a fare structure that begins with a minimum of Rs 5 and more than a million working women and girl students travel by them every day.
Interestingly, while announcing the free bus ride for women scheme Kejriwal also ensured that the message loaded with the soft Hindutva does not turn away Muslim voters who voted for the Congress.
Rather to woo Congress voters to his fold he invoked Rajiv Gandhi in his message as well.
“Rajiv Gandhi had once said that when a government spends Rs 100, Rs 85 leaks through corruption and only Rs 15 actually reaches the ground for public welfare. He had said this 3-4 decades ago. What have I done instead? All I have done is saved the Rs 85 from being stolen, and of that Rs 85, I am spending Rs 75 on building schools, hospitals, sewer systems, water pipelines and roads. With the remaining Rs 10, I provide free bus rides for you. I make your electricity and water free (of cost). I provide free education to your children in government schools. I provided free medicine and tests in all hospitals. I introduced the ‘Farishtey Dilli Ke’ scheme, which provides free treatment for all accident victims.”
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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2019 12:54:49 IST