New Delhi: Until last month, rising power rates was the most prominent theme on which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intended to fight the Delhi elections. However, a change of leadership in the Delhi BJP has ensured that Vijay Goel’s grand promise of cutting rates by 30 per cent is finding few takers within his own party.
Party sources said the new chief ministerial candidate, Harsh Vardhan, had expressed his reservations over the feasibility of cutting rates. Vardhan is believed to have told his party colleagues that Goel’s agenda was not practical’.
“Vardhan’s argument was that cutting tariffs (rates) is not feasible. He doesn't see it happening,” a party source said. Vardhan expressed his reservation during one of the brainstorming sessions of the party on the BJP manifesto, expected to be released by November 22. In the run up to the manifesto release, starting Saturday, the BJP is going to unveil one vaayda (promise) every day, by way of an effort to offer something concrete to voters. It was during the discussion on these promises that the issue of power rates came up.
The party is in a bind as to how much it should distance itself from the public announcements made by Goel, who remains president of the Delhi unit. Apart from facing the ridicule of opposition parties, it fears a backlash from Goel, unhappy with the decision of the central leadership to sidestep him in favour of Vardhan.
Party sources said it was looking for alternatives. These include promising measures such as increasing production of electricity and cutting losses. A decision is yet to be taken by the party on whether the proposal of open-access will be maintained in the manifesto.
Goel had formulated a “10-point formula”, which he claimed would ensure power rates in Delhi were reduced by 30 per cent. His strategy included bringing “transparency” in the working of the discoms by ordering a Comptroller and Auditor General audit, curtailing “unnecessary” power purchases that will lead to reduction of Rs 2 per unit, ensuring more autonomy to Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission by appointing “competent” people, checking power thefts and conducting an energy audit. However, the BJP’s primary argument is that discoms in Delhi have monopolised’ power. And, the solution to this was to introduce open-access.
The system of open-access allows customers to make a choice among different power distribution companies. It was a primary objective of the Electricity Act, 2003, which had envisaged open-access as a system to introduce competition in the power sector. At present, the option of open-access is available only in Mumbai.