At Aam Aadmi Party’s first poll rally in Burari on Friday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told the crowd that if the BJP or the Congress come to power in the MCD elections, then the government’s decision to provide 20 kilolitres of free water to every household and lower electricity rates could be reversed. “I want to warn you people. A couple of days ago, a senior BJP leader came to meet me and told me that a plot was being hatched. I inquired further. The leader said that if BJP or Congress win the MCD polls, they will increase the electricity and power tariffs in Delhi. I told him this cannot happen as these departments are under the Delhi government. The leader told me that the entire planning has been done, and that the central government will snatch electricity and water from the Delhi government and hand it to the MCD. I said this is not possible, you must be lying. He said, ‘Bhaisahab, before 1998, the two departments were with the MCD’. AAP has reduced electricity and water tariffs, their governments in all states are perplexed,” he said.
He asked people to give AAP full support and help it come to power in municipal corporations, so that there will be no hike even if the two departments are given to the municipal corporations. Currently the BJP is in-charge of all three civic bodies — North, East and South. Last week, AAP had announced that it would abolish residential house tax in the city if voted to power. Repeating the promise, Kejriwal said they had fulfilled the promise of ‘paani maaf and bijli half’ after coming to power in the state elections and would fulfil the promise of no residential house tax as well.
A debate has been raging over whether the municipal corporations have the power to waive house tax, with opposition parties saying the move would require the sanction of the Parliament and AAP saying that MCDs have the power to make the change. According to municipal officials, more than Rs 1,000 crore in revenue comes from house tax — both commercial and residential. Revenue collected from commercial house tax is higher than residential tax.
Kejriwal said the revenue of corporations would not take a hit because of the decision. “When we decided to give free water, everyone said the Delhi Jal Board will go bankrupt. But the utility earned Rs 178 crore in revenue. We will stop corruption and save money,” he said. Close to 1,500 people attended the rally. Burari constituency has six municipal wards under it. The municipal elections are crucial for AAP, with Delhi being the party’s stronghold.