The meat in AAP’s sandwich politics

A series of pro-citizen policies in Delhi offers important lessons
All parties and governments claim control over the nation’s resources, but the real question should be on where those resources are spent and how they are redistributed by people in power. Consider the case of the three-year-old Aam Aadmi Party government led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi. It has been accused of ‘dharna politics’, of being inexperienced and unable to engage in the ‘sandwich politics’ of balancing the Centre’s Lieutenant Governor and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Municipal Corporation. However, a series of pro-citizen, pro-labour policy actions offer lessons for other State governments. The government’s recent decision to conduct a pan-Delhi socio-economic survey, which aims to map benefits of social security schemes with beneficiaries, to mitigate exclusionary errors, is worth mentioning. The launch of door-to door delivery of public services via ‘mobile sahayaks’ is another transformative move that will help minimise beneficiary inconvenience and petty corruption at government centres, and maximise efficiency and outreach. Another important move concerns the de-linking of Aadhaar from pensions of widows, old-age pensioners and the differently-abled. The Delhi government realised — long before the recent Supreme Court verdict — that Aadhaar should not be responsible for delays, denials and deaths. As many as 25 deaths in the country since 2017 have been reportedly linked to ‘Aadhar-related issues’. The government’s pro-labour policy measures include making minimum wages mandatory, with firm punitive measures for defaulting employers. Another radical proposal is to do away with outsourcing of labour in the public sector, which allows employers to escape their responsibility to provide social security benefits to their employees.The AAP government’s emphasis on social security — including its policies against forced evictions; in-situ slum upgradation schemes; health provisioning through ‘mohalla clinics’; provision of cheap electricity and water; and popular reforms in Delhi government schools — dates back to its initial 2015 manifesto. That said, the party has also faced flak over concerns relating to sources of political funding, key members leaving the party, office-of-profit cases against its MLAs and questionable decisions around ticket distribution. Some of its promises, such as passing the Jan Lokpal Bill making Delhi a ‘wifi city’, are yet to see the light of day. The fundamental question that remains unanswered relates to whether these policies have any appeal for a middle and upper-class electorate, especially in an era of competitive party politics whose success rests on narrative-building through advertisements and campaigning.
The writer is a Ph.D. scholar at the University of Delhi, and founding partner of news portal Jan Ki Baat
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