Until June 17, e-rickshaws were an illegal entity, made so by a notification from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways April 24. This changed after Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari attended a ‘maha rally’ of e-rickshaw drivers and owners on June 17.
Chants of “aache din aa gaye’’ reverberated at Ramlila Maidan, the rally venue, as Gadkari announced the Deen Dayal e-rickshaw scheme, which gave relief to one lakh e-rickshaw drivers in the capital.
With fresh Assembly elections eminent in Delhi, the BJP’s master stroke was seen by many as an attempt to secure its vote bank.
The AAP had also tried a similar move before the Delhi Assembly polls last December. It garnered the support of auto-rickshaw unions and were successful in making them a part of its vote base. Result: It won 28 of the 70 seats in the Assembly.
The AAP, in fact, also tried to take up the cause of e-rickshaw owners with Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung, but without much success. Kejriwal along with three AAP MLAs had met Jung on June 16 to discuss the crackdown on e-rickshaws by Transport department.
“I requested the Lt-Governor to save the livelihood and employment of over one lakh drivers by asking the Transport officials not to impound these vehicles,” Kejriwal had said, adding that he would also meet Gadkari over the issue.
The Congress too wrote to the Lt-Governor to stop impounding e-rickshaws. Claiming credit for introducing e-rickshaws in the capital, the party said these vehicles were introduced during the Sheila Dikshit regime with a view to reduce pollution and also to ease the load off cycle-rickshaw drivers.
“Kejriwal was shedding crocodile tears for e-rickshaw drivers. He was trying to use them to serve his political end,” Congress sokesperson Mukesh Sharma said.