On 8 August, Arvind Kejriwal put aside the rancour and bitterness that attended his government’s interactions of late with the Centre to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the cleaning-up and rejuvenation of the Yamuna. An agreement to this end was signed between him and Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti. “The two sides expressed confidence that a joint effort will lead to a clean Yamuna, an issue which has now been pending since decades,” read a statement issued by the Centre afterwards. The agreement should be welcome although skeptics abound; they contend that the crores of Rupees envisaged for the project would amount to precious little given the past experience of similar undertakings for the Yamuna and the Ganga.
The agreement signals a thaw in the AAP-BJP ties, which have been fraught since the fledgling party returned to power beating the BJP in Delhi in February. For Delhi, with its quasi-statehood status, a working relationship with the Centre is central to its governance and to that extent it portends well for the Kejriwal government. However, care needs to be taken so that competitive politics does not degenerate into a slugfest.
Delhi Water Minister Kapil Mishra was the first off the mark when he spoke about bathing in the Yamuna in three years’ time. Mishra also indicated that the aap government might want to institute a probe into the wastage of money in the name of cleaning up the Yamuna during previous governments.
Predictably, comparisons would be drawn in the manner and speed with which the two governments in Delhi and the Centre go about cleaning up the Yamuna and the Ganga, respectively. It could set the stage for a keen contest in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in 2017. Incidentally, Yamuna meets the Ganga at Allahabad, a key electoral arena.
The Centre is racing against time, especially after a parliamentary standing committee’s report on the Union Ministry of Water Resources pointed out the glacial pace at which the Ganga rejuvenation programme was being carried out. Moreover, the Supreme Court, too, had a word or two to say about the Centre insofar as its Ganga project was concerned. In January, the court had said the following about the Centre: “You should be more keen than us[.] You said [you are] committed [to cleaning up the river]. So, do you want to complete this task in this term of the government or not?” Clearly, for both Kejriwal and Modi, the challenge is: Will they finish cleaning the rivers by the end of their respective terms?