The battle for Delhi turned heated on Friday as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Amit Shah feuded over the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s performance over the past five years during campaigning for next month’s decisive elections in the national capital.
Delhi will hold elections to its 70-member assembly on February 8 in a high-stakes electoral contest that has pitched the AAP’s campaign to retain power by showcasing its performance against the BJP’s efforts to claw back into the national capital, where it has been out of power for two decades.
On Friday, Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia responded to Shah’s questions on the Delhi government’s delivery of free Wi-Fi, installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, and construction of schools for quality education.
The Delhi CM said he was happy that the people of Delhi forced the BJP to ask for votes on the basis of issues of CCTVs, schools and unauthorised colonies. Reacting to a tweet of the BJP about Shah asking how many schools were constructed and cameras were installed, Kejriwal said: “I’m happy you saw some CCTV cameras. A few days back, you said there was not a single camera. Take out some time, we will show you our schools also.”
In its campaign, the AAP has tried to showcase its performance in the Capital over the past five years, with a focus on education — where it says it has improved government schools — and health care — where it has set up mohalla clinics — as key successes.
Speaking at a rally later in the day, the BJP leader and Union home minister accused Kejriwal of not fulfilling the promises made during the AAP government’s tenure. “In Delhi, there is the AAP government that made tall promises, and ruled Delhi for five years but pulled it back in terms of progress,” he said.
“Kejriwal ji does not remember his old promises. Ask him, whenever he comes, about the new schools which were to be constructed… More than 700 schools do not have principals today, and many of them do not have science department. There is overall a shortage of close to 19,000 teachers,” Shah added at a rally in Karawal Nagar.
“Kejriwal had also said that more than 15 lakh CCTV cameras will be installed, were they installed at all places? He had said that 5,000 buses for DTC will be purchased, but only 300 were brought and then the news was released in media,” he said.
Responding to Shah’s questions earlier, Delhi’s deputy CM Sisodia invited the Union home minister to visit a school in Patparganj. “You will come for a roadshow in Patparganj. Ask anyone; people will themselves show you fabulous schools. If you want to see a new school also, the people of Patparganj will show them to you there.”
A day after Shah said that his phone’s battery drained but he was not able to use the free Wi-Fi in the Capital, Sisodia took a dig at him by saying that the service could be used only when a device was powered on.
“Our government is giving electricity free up to 200 units, please keep your phone charged. You cannot find Wi-Fi with your phone off. The Delhi elections results can be anything, but please keep your phone charged,” Sisodia said.
At a public meeting in Rohini, Kejriwal said he was very happy to hear Shah talk about unauthorised colonies, education and health. “It shows that while in rest of the country the BJP seek votes on the basis of caste and religion, in Delhi they are forced to seek votes on the basis of development work like health and education,” he said.
BJP national president JP Nadda, too, criticised the AAP, alleging that the government failed to construct more schools and hospitals and install CCTV cameras. “The AAP had promised adding 500 more schools, 30 new hospitals, 5,000 buses, lakhs of CCTV cameras, promised free Wi-Fi at public places, Lokpal. But did they do it? They have not and that is their past,” Nadda said.
Under attack for providing subsidies, Delhi CM Kejriwal also said freebies in a limited dose were good for the economy as they made more money available to the poor.
“Freebies, in limited dose, are good for economy. It makes more money available to poor, hence boosts demand. However, it should be done in such limits so that no extra taxes have to be imposed and it does not lead to budget deficits,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The AAP won 67 of the 70 seats in the assembly polls in 2015. The BJP secured only three seats in the polls then, but subsequently won all three municipal corporations and the seven Delhi seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress, which ruled Delhi for three consecutive terms until 2013 under the late Sheila Dixit, drew a blank in the elections.