A Miracle: Kejriwal plays ducks & drakes with public money without "power to buy a pen"
By Amba Charan Vashishth
A few days back the Delhi Chief Minister who blames the Prime Minister Narendra Modi even if a tree gets uprooted in the NCR because of heavy rain and howling wind, tweeted, ""The CM and ministers are left with no power now, even to buy a pen. LG and PM enjoy all powers".
That was a statement demeaning the office of a chief minister Kejriwal holds. Kejriwal represents the aam aadmi, his morals, ethos, hopes and aspirations. Those who took Kejriwal at his words, felt pained at this situation. But one can believe Kejriwal at the risk of one's own credibility. It is a different matter if the self-proclaimed "anarchist" in him is not worried about such political decencies and niceties.
Immediately on taking oath Kejriwal had declared that the State exchequer was people's money and each penny shall be spent on the aam aadmi. A month after the first "Swaraj" budget of AAP government was passed Kejriwal set aside ₹526 crores in the annual budget for publicity and advertisements which was opposed by the opposition and even an AAP MLA as just self-promotion.
This very chief minister, according to an RTI revelation, could yet manipulate "power" to spend aam aadmi's ₹100 crores for self-promotion between February 10 and May 10, 2016. This amount, it is said, pertained to newspaper advertisements only; money spent on TV, radio ads and publicity hoardings was in addition.
This financially 'powerless' Kejriwal government has reportedly been pulled up by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for spending ₹28 crore on advertisements and publicity campaign outside of Delhi at places as far off as Bengaluru, Chennai and Kerala. Kejriwal, obviously, was not promoting his government but his party for political and electoral purposes there.
Although Arvind Kejriwal had "no power to buy a pen" yet he could still afford to pay an electricity bill of about ₹91,000 for the two months of April and May at his Civil Lines residence, according to an RTI reply.
Further, Kejriwal could still exercise powers to appoint 21 of his MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries with hefty perks.
Kejriwal Government appointed Women Commission Chairman Swati Maliwal could recruit hundreds of people and give them financial benefits illegally without observing the rules. Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) has registered "a case under Sections 13(D) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC against Maliwal," said a senior ACB officer. There are allegations that 90 percent of persons selected by her are AAP workers.
This aam aadmi Chief Minister wanted to undertake in royal splendour his yatra to Vatican City to be present at Mother Teressa's canonisation accompanies by his OSD, his Chief Secretary, his Health Minister Satyendra Jain and his OSD. But Lt. Governor put his foot down and allowed only the CM, his OSD and Satyendra Jain and none else. Lakhs of rupees out of public funds were spent.
All said and done, Kejriwal government yet had the “power” to get the Delhi assembly pass the Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Government of NCT of Delhi (Salaries, Allowances, Pension) Amendment Bill raising the pay and perks of the chief minister, ministers and MLAs by 400 percent. It raised the monthly package of MLAs from ₹88,000 to ₹2.5 lakh per month while their annual travelling allowance has been raised from ₹50,000 to ₹3 lakh per year, with other perks. A Delhi MLA would get a basic salary of ₹50,000, constituency allowance of ₹50,000, conveyance allowance of ₹30,000, communication allowance of ₹10,000 and secretarial allowance of ₹70,000. The basic salary of ministers has been increased from ₹20,000 to ₹80,000 and their constituency allowance to ₹50,000 from ₹18,000. This has been done with a view not to "deny the need for money (to legislators) when it comes to serving the people". During discussion on the Bill some AAP MLAs claimed that "with their current salaries, they could not attend weddings as they didn't have enough money to buy gifts". They want public money to buy gifts to their electorate.
If "with no power now, even to buy a pen" CM Kejriwal and his ministers could play havoc with the public funds, what would have they done if they had all the "powers"?