Free power and water to the people of Delhi triggered intense acrimony today between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP's Gautam Gambhir. While AAP's Sanjay Singh took on the East Delhi MP at a press conference, the cricketer-turned-politician hit back on Twitter, not just at AAP, but its chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Arvind Kejriwal's freebies to the people of Delhi -- power, water and public transport for women -- had drawn much criticism from the BJP when they were introduced. In the run up to the assembly elections in Delhi, they have become huge political issues.
While Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari has promised to give "five times more" if the BJP comes to power, Gautam Gambhir pointed out that freebies, over time, lose their value for people. This is why governments, he added, impose a nominal charge for these services, Mr Gambhir had said.
This morning, AAP's Sanjay Singh took on Mr Gambhir over the comment. The senior leader accused the East Delhi MP of "hypocrisy", pointing out that he was bashing the government even though he continues to enjoy free facilities.
"Gautam Gambhir says he is against free services but he himself enjoys 50,000 free units of electricity and other facilities that an MP is entitled to," Mr Singh told the media. "If Gautam Gambhir is against free services that benefits the poor, he should surrender the free facilities including 50,000 units of electricity that an MP is entitled to. This is sheer display of hypocrisy," he added.
An immediate response came from Gautam Gambhir.
I have NEVER said that POOR should not get free services. Only that people who CAN afford should be charged a nominal amount!!— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) January 15, 2020
FYI - I have not taken a single govt benefit in 8 months unlike your hypocrite CM who had been advertising himself at the taxpayers' expense for 5 yrs https://t.co/s0vHCICpOc
For the coming elections, the AAP has promised free WiFi, free transport for students, free pilgrimage for senior citizens and waiver of development charges for new water and sewer connections.
In a tweet, the Chief Minister also said, "People say AAP gives "freebies" - but our "freebies" have placed ₹30,000 crore annually in the hands of people creating demand in Delhi's economy, and high GSDP growth. We did this without increasing your taxes, and still maintained a Budget surplus."
Addressing the question of how AAP funds these facilities, Mr Kejriwal had taken a veiled dig at the BJP's Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
"We allowed free travel to women in public transport buses and the opposition raised noise over it. People ask where did the money for it come from. The chief minister of a state bought a plane worth Rs 191 crore for himself. I did not buy a plane and instead made travel free for my sisters," Mr Kejriwal said.