The Delhi state unit of the BJP has decided to use the issue of rising power prices in its bid to win the seat of power in Delhi in 2013. The party has planned a series of protests all the way till the Assembly elections.
In a meeting held on Wednesday, the BJP decided to hold a march from Jantar Mantar to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence on Sunday. This would be followed by a massive rally demanding roll-back of power prices, which would be held at Ramlila Ground during the last week of October. It may be recalled the party had organised a gathering of Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) in the first week of August to protest against hike in power prices.
V K Malhotra, leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, told The Sunday Standard, “A person earning Rs 5,000 a month cannot afford to pay Rs 2,000 per month as electricity bills. The hike in power prices is totally unjustified. Hence, we plan to build a consensus among the RWAs to stop paying electricity bills. The only worry is that the companies may crush the protest by cutting power supply. We plan to hold protest to roll back power prices all the way up to the Assembly elections next year.”
Malhotra claimed that the people of Delhi have been crushed under the burden of rising prices. Now the hike in diesel prices is going to have a ripple effect on the prices of essential commodities.
BJP Delhi state president Vijender Gupta said that the residents of Delhi are paying more for power compared to people in Chennai, Noida, Bangalore and Gurgaon. “Bijender Singh, former chairperson of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), inspected the accounts of distribution companies and found out that they made a profit of Rs 5,100 crore. In fact, he had recommended a reduction of 20 per cent in tariffs. But after he retired in August 2011, the incumbent DERC chairperson increased the power prices by 22 per cent. Moreover, he also allowed companies to charge fuel surcharge on a quarterly basis. The fixed charges have also been increased,” Gupta said.
According to the BJP, there is a clear nexus between the Congress-led Delhi government, power distribution companies and the DERC. “We are protesting against a nexus that has led to looting of the citizens of Delhi,” said Gupta.
Mukesh Sharma, parliamentary secretary of Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, however, rubbished the BJP’s campaign demanding roll-back of power prices, reducing it to an internal party squabble. He said, “The BJP election of state president is to be held next month. BJP leaders Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Vijay Goel, Jagdish Mukhi, Dr Harshavardhan and incumbent state chief Vijender Gupta are lobbying for the post. Each is trying to outdo the other in talking about the issue of power supply in Delhi, in order to be seen as the most apt man for the post.”
Sharma said that the BJP demands do not hold water. “There had been no hike in power prices for six years, before the recent hike. DERC is an independent quasi judicial body which decides on power prices. Moreover, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) ordered states that the power discoms in Delhi have to recover Rs 6,000 crore dues.”
Sharma further stated that the Delhi government is committed to 24-hour uninterrupted power supply. “Since there are power outages in Noida, Ghaziabad and Gurgaon, people are using generators and buying power at Rs 8 to Rs 10 per unit. But in Delhi the situation is much better. When the BJP was in power in the capital from 1993 to 1998, there were 1,500 riots due to power outages. But after the Congress government brought in private discoms in the sector, hardly 10 power riots have occurred.”