The Coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the nation all around as India has propelled to the seventh position in terms of total number of COVID-19 cases. Majority of the cases are coming from metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai that have emerged as the virus hotspots. After making a mess of things with the migrant workers by pushing them off the state, the Delhi government has now turned to the central government by demanding ₹5,000 crore assistance to be able to pay salaries to its employees, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Sunday.
Manish Sisodia, the education minister who also holds the finance department charge, said the Delhi government requires ₹3,500 crore per month to pay salaries to its employees and to meet other needs.
However, it is the same Kejriwal government that has tooted its own horn on several occasions by stating a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that the government was in Rs 113 crore trade surplus in FY 2017-18.
It was Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal who had doled out the freebie lolipop to the public of Delhi stating that the government was in surplus. “Freebies, in limited dose, are good for economy. It makes more money available to poor, hence boosts demand.” Kejriwal had stated just before the Delhi elections in January.
But when things started going haywire in the wake of Wuhan virus pandemic, the AAP government has turned to the Centre. While Sisodia demands the money to pay for the teachers, one cannot help but wonder where all the surplus money has gone.
Kejriwal Government for the second time within a month has prodded the Union government to bail it out.
Meanwhile Congress which in past has supported AAP to form the government also came out and started targeting Kejriwal for putting up the charade of a victim. Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken whilst speaking to Times Now iterated that Delhi has always got the preferential treatment from the Union Government and therefore the demand of asking Rs 5000 crore is nothing but farce.
“On Delhi Police, Delhi University, Six super-speciality hospitals, employees’ pension, the Centre spends around Rs 19,000 crore per year. In three phases of Delhi Metro, only 12 per cent of Rs 70,000 crore has been spent by Delhi Government, the rest by the Centre or loans guaranteed by the Central Government,” said Maken.
Even in the wake of a pandemic of global scale, Kejriwal has not shied away from full page newspaper advertisements to buying TV advertisement slots. Mocking the CM for his PR overdrive, Delhi BJP leader Manoj Tiwari mocked Kejriwal by asking whether he needed the money to pay the teachers or for his own advertising campaigns.
The AAP government had not only imposed a 70% ‘Special Corona Fee’ on liquor but also raised value added tax (VAT) on both petrol and diesel last month. The value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel was hiked to 30 per cent — “30 paise per rupee” to make up for the revenue-loss.
While the times are tough and revenues have certainly fallen, the Arvind Kejriwal before asking for money from Centre should get of its high-horse of claiming to be a fiscally sound state—the high of 2017-18 has long been lost since then. Kejriwal rode to power in February majorly on his populist measures that garnered the attention of the poor class and the middle class.
The COVID-19 has given a harsh reality check to Delhites that a populist leader cannot run a city in the larger scheme of things. It needs to be seen if Kejriwal continues with his populist measures which will ultimately spell doom for Delhi’s financial structure or makes the logical decision to let go off his ego and the populist measures.