By rolling out the scheme of free electricity for those who live in rented accommodation, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has put a finger on the class issues inherent to the capital city. It can be argued that his politics of addressing core issues that have been sidestepped by politicians for long, can be a much more effective way to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party's maelstrom of Hindutva politics.
The scheme, which is likely to benefit the migrant working class living as tenants under unequal terms with their landlords, should help in increasing the AAP’s grip among this section of voters. The move addressing one of the underlying issues faced by these voters is seen as a timely one when the BJP is increasingly wooing them with its Hindutva narrative.
It hardly requires any mention here that Kejriwal’s rise to prominence in the capital city was essentially due to the class issues he focussed on. He addressed the concerns related to ‘ease of living’ of the lives of millions of poor in the slums and Jhuggi Jhopdi clusters. Issues related to identity politics such as caste, religion and ethnicity never fitted into Kejriwal’s scheme of things.
Kejriwal stuck to his brand of politics even after he was elected as the chief minister of the state with a landslide mandate winning 67 out of 70 seats in the 2015 Assembly election. From providing education in Delhi government schools with quality equal to that of private schools, to making electricity cheaper, providing free potable water and quality healthcare to one and all through Mohalla Clinics, Kejriwal has never lost sight of the core class group that voted him into power.
The welfare schemes rolled out by the city government over the last five years are all targetted at the underdog. They have not only made lives of the poor in Delhi easier but also created a sense of equality and empowerment among them. With the scheme of providing free electricity to the tenants Kejriwal shows he is eager to further his kind of politics by doing away with the power imbalance in the tenant-landlord relationship in Delhi.
Significantly, tenants in Delhi often complain about the unequal terms of the relationship they share with the landlords. The issue of sharing of electricity bills between them has often been a bone of contention since long.
Even though the Delhi government only in the last month rolled out a scheme to provide free electricity for the city dwellers, the benefits of this scheme remained confined among the landlords only, hardly ever percolating to the tenants.
But tenants in Delhi, most of whom are migrant workers from other states, form a sizeable portion of the capital city’s voter base. As per data released by the Chief Electoral Officer Delhi during the period starting from 2014 Lok Sabha polls 1.4 million new voters were added in the state.
Out of this big chunk of voters, only 2.14 lakhs were first-time voters. It is apparent that a big chunk of the remaining nearly 1.2 million voters are likely to be migrants.
Though the earlier scheme to provide free electricity up to 200 units aimed to benefit 24 lakh consumer it did not reach the tenants due to unequal terms of relation with the landlords.
Many landlords in Delhi, especially in the un-authorized colonies and jhuggi jhopdi clusters charge the tenant for electricity at a fixed per unit rate, which is often higher than the government rate.
On account of this unequal terms of relationship, many tenants even ended up paying the landlord for the electricity supplied free of cost under the scheme.
The new scheme meant only for tenants does away with this inequality. It allows the tenant to have his own electricity metre, to avail free electricity up to 200 units as the landlord and also pay according to the government rates for the additional units consumed.
It is not estimated yet how many tenants this scheme is going to benefit. But it is expected to be far more than 24 lakhs which was the number of beneficiaries estimated for the earlier free electricity scheme, mostly availed by the landlords. By any estimate the number of tenants is likely to be more than that of landlords as a single house is often rented out to multiple tenants in different segments.
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Updated Date: Sep 28, 2019 09:32:35 IST