A tax-payer in India is not unfamiliar with the perplexing ways that governments put his/her money to use. For example, every time you have to make way for a shrieking beaconed car to whoosh past, some of you spend a moment mourning the taxes chopped off your salary. Or when you sit in a traffic jam staring at billboards plastered with faces of our smiling ministers, congratulating their own party for building this bridge and that road, a part of you wonders why this vanity is necessary. Now the Aam Aadmi Party seems to have taken it upon itself to make paying taxes in Delhi seem extremely unfair.
The following full-page 'advertisement' - on behalf of the Delhi government - greeted us today morning. The following screenshot is from the e-paper of The Indian Express. It appears on page 5. In today's Hindustan Times it appears right after a jacket advertisement by Amazon, on page 2.
However, this is not a boring self congratulatory exercise by the Delhi government. Because in blazing red fonts, the advertisement begins with the following (should we say read-bait) headline: WHY THE PEOPLE OF DELHI SHOULD SUFFER?
It then goes on to list several complaints the Delhi government has against the Central government. It alleges that the Modi government had arbitrarily transferred several officers to postings outside Delhi, thereby jeopardising a lot of development work that was being done for the union territory.
It alleges that not only were ministers working closely with the Delhi government transferred without informing the latter, the chief minister's personal staff was also shunted out.
Now everyone who has followed Delhi's political trajectory over the past few years is aware of the hostility between the state and the Centre. Among other things, Kejriwal had been seeking control over the Delhi Police, the reins to who lie with the Centre. Unsurprisingly, the Centre has not relented.
In 2015, the Delhi government had sparred with the Modi government over the same issue - transfer of officers without the consent of the AAP government. Delhi is subject to laws special to it and which have existed for years. Under the said laws, the Centre reserves the power to transfer officers of the Union Territory cadre of IAS officers among other UTs like Andamans, Chandigarh etc.
So the Centre's activities are completely in line with the laws that govern the area.
However, it is very evident that following BJP's spectacular defeat in Delhi, the NDA government has gone out of its way to interfere with and disrupt the functioning of the Delhi government.
That apart, in the upcoming Assembly polls in Punjab, Gujarat and Goa, the BJP is a key player and the AAP is reportedly gaining some foothold among the voters.
While it is well within Kejriwal's right to question the timing of the transfers - allegedly while they were in the midst of important projects - what purpose does spending crores to book full page advertisements in newspapers serve? Apart from scoring a point over the BJP's public outreach machinery, nothing else.
The Aam Aadmi Party - whose ministers and members have hugely following on social media accounts - could have posed the same questions on social media, which arguably engages more eyeballs than a newspaper ad readers may just overlook. That apart, most of Delhi government's departments have elaborate websites, where the same allegations could have been put up as a blogposts and again shared widely. Or perhaps, taking cue from ahem, the Prime Minister's office, the party could have sent bulk emails apprising Delhi's residents of the riders the Centre is posing in its path of work.
The party didn't think any of that would suffice.
How is spending tax payers' money to gain an upper hand on a rival party a legitimate exercise? It is probably as bad is patting your own backs through huge advertisements while announcing projects that anyway take ages to complete.
The USP of the Aam Aadmi Party had been its claims of re-defining the face of realpolitik in India. How then, does spending huge sums of tax payers' money to further an increasingly personal political agenda, sit in its conscience?