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Will Delhi see a new style of governance, administration and protocol?
Monday December 23, 2013 7:51 PM, Prashant Sood, IANS

Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party leader who had promised to change the rules of the political game and transform the relationship between government and the people, will be the new chief minister of Delhi in the next few days. Will he be able to fulfill the AAP's tall poll promises? Will AAP herald a new style of governance?

Analysts say the party is unlikely to find the going easy due to likely resistance from vested interests and disinclination for change in the entrenched bureaucracy.

AAP has made a slew of promises, which appear fresh and are in keeping with its thrust on empowerment of the common man. But the sheer number of promises and the changes they will entail in administrative mechanisms has also resulted in some scepticism about their implementation.

Kejriwal has said that the AAP wants to tackle "VIP culture" and no MLA, minister or officer in Delhi should put a red beacon light on their vehicle, stay in a big bungalow and accept special security.

He has also proposed that the MLA fund and the councillor fund should end and the money given straight to "mohalla sabhas (neigbhourhood assemblies)" so that people can decide where and how to spend government money. The AAP has talked of setting up a "mohalla sabha secretariat" to issue birth, death, caste and income certificates.

The party has promised to improve standards of education in government schools and open at least 500 new schools. It has assured of opening new government hospitals to bring Delhi at par with the "international norm of five beds for 1,000 people."

The party has promised to create a "citizen's security force with a branch in each ward" to improve security for women. The party manifesto says that proceedings in all court cases would be video-recorded and made available to ordinary citizens.

The AAP also plans to end contract jobs and go in for "regularisation of all government and private jobs." It has also promised to reduce power expenses of consumers by 50 percent and provide 700 litres of water per day to households.

Kejriwal's avowed thrust on fighting corruption put paid to any scope of horse trading in a hung Delhi assembly. And, in a break with political traditions of the past, the AAP took the unprecedented decision to form a government by holding wide consultations with the people who voted it to power.

Officials said Kejriwal has refused the security that is accorded to a chief minister and is likely to keep away from many of the protocols associated with the chair. AAP wants to hold Kejriwal's oath-taking ceremony at the huge Ramlila Maidan in the capital.

Political commentator S. Nihal Singh said that AAP could resort to symbolism like its ministers walking to offices but people would judge it by the quality of its administration. He said the party cannot afford to go to the people every time and seek their views on the problems its government will face.

"Symbolism is one thing and administration is another. You have to have a pragmatic way to govern. I see a lot of confusion ahead," Nihal Singh told IANS.

Aditya Mukherjee, professor of contemporary Indian history at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said that AAP would battle structural constraints in fulfilling its promises and there could be "blame game" in case of delays.

"They (AAP leaders) may be able to convince people (about their promises) in the next six months and create an atmosphere favourable to them for the Lok Sabha elections, but I don't think they have a concrete roadmap," Mukherjee told IANS.

He said running a government was different from running a panchayati raj institution. "In PRI every action answerable to citizen, in government (you) can't do that. Running government is a different ball game...It's nature of handling is complex," he said.

Mukherjee also said that AAP had made tall promises but changing the attitude of the bureaucracy was not easy. However, the AAP's endeavour to end "VIP culture" was a good move, he added.

Political scientist Aswini K. Ray was of the view that the AAP's rise symbolised a bold new experiment in politics but added that he was keeping his fingers crossed on how many of its promises the party will be able to fulfill. "My fear is bureaucracy might come in the way as they are often resistant to any new experiment," Ray told IANS.

He said that Kejriwal has been an activist but has relatively less experience in political management.

Referring to promises of cheaper power and 700 litres of water monthly to every household, he said these will be difficult things to implement.

"These will immediately hit vested interests. If he (Kejriwal) can anticipate (problems), he may be able to get over them," Ray said.

Ray warned that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress were likely to capitalise on any failure of the AAP to fulfill its promises.

But AAP national executive member Ajit Jha was firm that the party will fulfill its promises to the people.

"Those thinking in conventional terms may say that we will find implementation of promises difficult but politics is changing. Big changes come about when there is conjunction between movement and government," Jha told IANS.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at )

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