In the latest allegation of corruption on the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into alleged irregularities in the power subsidy scheme.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has claimed that the inquiry is politically motivated and has come at the behest of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The AAP also linked it to Gujarat assembly elections slated to be held later this year. Free power is among the promises made by AAP in Gujarat.
Besides power subsidies, Sazena has ordered investigations in into several of Kejriwal government's works, including excise policy, classroom construction, and hospital construction.
The BJP also fired a fresh salvo at the AAP over the power subsidy scheme, alleging that Rs 3,200 in dues of private power distribution companies were waived. It also questioned why AAP leaders had been "appointed" to the board of directors of discoms that are joint ventures between private companies and the Delhi government.
According to sources at the LG office, Saxena has directed Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within seven days after he received a complaint of alleged "irregularities" in the power subsidy scheme.
The complainants, including lawyers and jurists, have alleged that there was a "massive scam" in the scheme. The allegations included that the Delhi government violated its own Cabinet decision of 2015-16 and allowed no audit even as subsidy payments of Rs 11,500 crore was settled in favour of BSES discoms BRPL and BYPL.
No reaction was provided by the BSES when its comment was sought on the issue.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia slammed Saxena in a strong-worded letter, accusing him of interfering in the elected government's works in a "politically motivated and unconstitutional" manner.
Reacting to the development, AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal said the AAP's "free electricity guarantee" has been received "very well" by the people of Gujarat.
He added, "That's why the BJP wants to stop free electricity in Delhi. But have faith in me. I will not allow your free power to be stopped at any cost."
Kejriwal also assured the people of Gujarat "your power will also be free from March 1" if the AAP forms a government there. Power subsidy is a major poll plank of AAP.
In his letter, Sisodia said the LG has no power to issue orders on any matters concerning the Delhi government except for land, police, and law and order.
Stating the LG has been regularly ordering probes into decisions taken by the elected government in Delhi, he alleged these inquiries were "illegal and unconstitutional".
Addressing a press conference, BJP national spokesperson, Sudhanshu Trivedi accused the AAP government of benefiting discoms through the scheme.
"Why was the electricity subsidy not provided with honesty and transparency to the citizens of Delhi? Why was it not given through direct benefit like the central government and why were middlemen brought in?" Trivedi asked.
He alleged that a benefit of around Rs 8,000 crore was provided to power distribution companies by collecting a lesser amount of late fee charge.
"When private companies were given the right to collect 18 per cent in the name of late fees then why were the same companies paying only 12 per cent to the Delhi government for the late fee. Where was this profit of six per cent going? As per an assumption, they benefitted with around Rs 8000 crore through this in last few years," Trivedi alleged.
He also said that generally, government officials used to be nominated on the boards of power companies.
"But for the first time, the AAP nominated two of its office-bearers and a son of its MP to the boards of the power distribution company. What was the (AAP's) purpose behind this?" Trivedi asked.
BJP's IT department in charge Amit Malviya alleged that "undue" benefits were given by the Kejriwal government to two power discoms.
"Kejriwal gave undue benefits worth Rs 11,550 crore to two power DISCOMs and a windfall of 8,500 crore, which was extracted from the people of Delhi but paid to these private companies instead of the Govt.," Malviya tweeted.
A source in the LG office said, "The LG has asked the chief secretary to conduct an inquiry into alleged irregularities in the power subsidy amount given by the AAP government to BSES discoms and sought a report within seven days."
The LG has also asked the chief secretary to probe the non-implementation of power subsidy payment to consumers through Direct Benefit Transfer as ordered by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission in 2018, the sources said.
The complainants have alleged the AAP government, instead of recovering the dues of Rs 21,200 crore allegedly owed by the BSES discoms for power purchased by them from state generation companies, allowed them (discoms) to settle their outstanding through subsidy reimbursements, the sources said.
It was also alleged the discoms were allowed to charge Late Payment Surcharge (LPSC) at a rate of 18 per cent from consumers while they themselves paid LPSC at 12 per cent to the Delhi government-owned power generation companies.
"In the process, the discoms were provided a windfall gain of Rs 8,500 crore at the cost of the state exchequer," alleged the complainants.
Another allegation was that the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for subsidy payment to consumers, as directed by DERC, was blocked by the AAP government with the aim of "concealing" the actual number of subsidy beneficiaries and thereby paying "unverified amounts" to the discoms.
The Aam Aadmi Party, however, alleged that LG's probe order is "yet another conspiracy" of the BJP to stop Arvind Kejriwal's "victory chariot" in poll-bound Gujarat.
The authorities can go ahead with the probe but the AAP government in Delhi and Punjab will not stop the implementation of the free electricity scheme, the party asserted.
(With PTI inputs)