Looking for votes?

  • 30/12/2002

electioneering in Gujarat is in full swing. Caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi has run away from his vote bhoomi Rajkot. The mainstream media says it is a calculated move. Of course it is! Rajkot is a water crisis-driven city, and district. Modi had promised water. He was elected. Today, Rajkot city gets 20 minutes of municipal water supply everyday. His promises have harmed farmers (see: Go to Rajkot). Who in Rajkot would vote for him today? In running away, Modi acknowledged that issues like water are very political in nature. But did he have to do so in such a negative fashion?

Then there's the Congress. Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit will travel in the state. As campaign strategy, the two will trumpet their achievements. Krishna will talk about information technology, and not the Cauvery caterwaul. Sheila Dikshit? Delhi's cleaner air, of course!

Nowadays, wherever Sheila Dikshit goes, she makes it a point to boast about her government's success in stabilising pollution in Delhi. We think that is really great. At last, here is a politician who has openly begun to admit that so-called environmental issues are also vote-garnering ones (if the Supreme Court hadn't leaned upon her, and her government, the smog wouldn't have thinned out; but let us leave that aside).

Vehicular pollution is a political issue. Anything that affects people is. What Dikshit must also realise is that isn't an issue to be merely made political capital of. The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment has recently released its Anil Agarwal Clean Air Model. It clearly shows that the current stabilisation in pollution levels is no laurel to rest upon. Government cannot go lotus-eating. The attempts to combat vehicular pollution must be equally consistent in the future; else Delhi will subside into its (earlier) smog-laden ways. Its hard decisions all the way: more stringent emission norms and technologies; cleaner diesel, alternative fuels; banning private diesel cars; inciting the well-heeled to trust in buses; taxing the private, subsidising the public.

Will the government be up to it? We can't say. What we do know, however, is that Sheila Dikshit is now riding the Clean Air tiger. Now, she can't get off.

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