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Hot days ahead as Delhi government, Reliance wrangle

February 13, 2014 10:19 IST

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Abdul Wasey

Team Kejriwal should go slow. They should, no doubt, keep putting pressure on the concerned firms to ensure smooth power supply. But that should be done in an official and graceful manner, says Abdul Wasey.

The power play is on in Delhi. The Supreme Court’s direction to state-run power producer NTPC not to disconnect power supply to BSES in Delhi until March 26 is just one part of it.

On the face of it, it appears that the move will help avert a potential blackout in the national capital, at least in the near future.  But the relief may not be long lasting given the rising temperature of all the stakeholders with regards to the power supply cost.

Prospects of dark nights and fan-less days from April onwards have already started worrying Delhi residents as the row between the Aam Aadmi Party government and power distributors intensify with each passing day.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Arvind Kejriwal’s warning to the region's power regulator to revoke the licences of two electricity distributors if they fail to supply power may take the government-corporate house battle to a new level.

Kejriwal’s tweet that Anil Ambani was 'playing politics wid delhi's electricity? Whose politics is he doing?’ and Reliance’s response to it, saying the group  is "extremely disappointed with the Delhi chief minister's tweet attacking our Group Chairman"  are just an indicator that Kejriwal-Ambani relations are getting bad to worse.

There is nothing cool about the tone on both sides. Kejriwal recently warned both Reliance distributors -- BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd -- to clear their bills with power providers and that they should not threaten the city with large blackouts on account of a cash crunch.

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Photographs: Reuters

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BSES Yamuna Power, on its part, has already expressed its inability to pay state-run power generation companies citing lower tariffs and a shortfall in revenues. According to the distributors, the regulator has failed to increase power tariffs in line with the rising cost of power, leading to a revenue loss of more than Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion).

Whether the distributors’ claims are right or wrong would be known only after the state auditor comes up with its report on the sector.

But one thing is clear: Finding a suitable replacement for billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance Infrastructure Ltd -- that runs BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd – may not be an easy job.

Most of the smaller players would hesitate to replace the power giant of the country. And even if some of them dare to do so, they may not have enough resources and experience to cater to the needs of nearly 18-million population of the state. Ultimately, the public will suffer in the whole fight.

Cleaning the system is good. Seeking proper rates for electricity consumption is also justified. But the Delhi government must not be in hurry to punish the culprits, even before the state auditor submits its report.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Team Kejriwal should go slow. They should, no doubt, keep putting pressure on the concerned firms to ensure smooth power supply. But that should be done in an official and graceful manner.

No need to take this fight to the social networking websites. The Delhi CM also must not get personal, until something is proved against someone.

He should focus his energy on finding alternatives in case the licences of the current power suppliers are revoked.

One way to do this is to make a pool of small power firms and train them to work at state level. He should also start working on the reforms to bring transparency in the power sector.

Doing right is good but it should be done in a graceful manner. As Delhi chief minister, Kejriwal also needs to ensure that public does not suffer this summer, which is any way going to be a bit hotter this time.

Abdul Wasey is editor-in-chief of Media Pitch and former editor of The Financial World.


Photographs: Reuters

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