Days before the Election Commission announces the schedule for the Delhi Assembly election, slated for early next year, the Arvind Kejriwal government launched its free WiFi scheme, that has been in the works for some years now, and claimed that it had fulfilled all promises made to the people ahead of the 2015 elections. Ironically, the free WiFi scheme was launched on the day Internet was cut off in some parts of Delhi, for the first time ever, in view of the protests against the CitizenshIp Amendment Act.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took pains to point out the paradox while training his guns at the BJP-led Central government. The WiFi scheme was one of the key promises of the Aam Aadmi Party government but it took over four-and-a-half years to implement as several deadlines were missed. Kejriwal launched 100 hot spots on Thursday and announced that 11,000 more hot spots would come up in the next six months, 4,000 at bus shelters and 7,000 in other places in the city.
The Opposition BJP and Congress have accused the AAP government of reviving a nearly defunct project in view of the upcoming polls. They have expressed skepticism about the scheme’s implementation and dismissed it as a gimmick. Free WiFi at public spaces was one of the flagship schemes of the AAP when it swept to power with an overwhelming majority in 2015, aimed as it was at the underprivileged, students, young entrepreneurs and startup owners. While it found mention in the 2015-2016 Delhi Budget, it was conspicuously absent from the subsequent Budget proposals.
Now with elections round the corner, the Kejriwal government is on overdrive but its claim of fulfilling all its manifesto pledges remains just that. Augmenting public transport, curbing pollution, cleaning the Yamuna, etc., are issues that still need to be tackled on a war footing. The first nearly three years of the Kejriwal dispensation were consumed mainly by its conflict with the Lieutenant Governor, the representative of the BJP-led Central government, over various issues, trivial or otherwise.
The 2019 general election verdict proved to be a tipping point and the AAP government finally got into the act, perhaps realising that it needed to alter its strategy if it was to retain power in 2020. Its bid to change the narrative by focusing on bread-and-butter matters rather than divisive issues has succeeded to a large extent. Its free bus rides for women scheme, the low electricity and water rates in Delhi and its performance in the education and public health sectors have earned the AAP accolades. Its supporters in the national capital are optimistic that its return will prove beneficial to the Capital. Hence, as they near the finish line, it is imperative that the Kejriwal government remains on track and sticks to its core strengths, instead of getting into slanging matches with its rivals.