New Delhi: With power tariff witnessing a 65 per cent hike in last two years and both BJP and AAP projecting it as a major issue, the ruling Congress in Delhi may have to face the brunt of people`s anger over it in the December 4 electoral battle.
BJP and Arvind Kejriwal`s Aam Admi Party, which have been attacking the Congress government over the issue, have promised to cut power tariff by 30 per cent and 50 per cent respectively if they come to power.
People from all sections, poor and rich alike, admitted that the "high" power tariff has been affecting their monthly budget and it will be in their mind along with other issues while exercising their franchise.
Though consumers more or less were of the view that electricity supply had witnessed improvement, they felt "inflated" power bills remained a major concern.
The power tariff in the city was hiked by 22 per cent in 2011 followed by five per cent hike in February last year. The tariff was hiked by up to two per cent in May last year and again by 26 per cent for domestic consumers in July last year.
The tariff was hiked by up to three per cent in February and again by five per cent in July. Following the five per cent hike in tariff by Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, Delhi government had announced a subsidy for those limiting their monthly consumption to 400 units.
"No doubt our monthly budget has been hit big time due to inflated power bills. We are now finding it difficult to save money for children`s education," said Dinesh Kumar, a resident in Janakpuri.
Kumar`s anger was echoed by Rakesh Gupta, an employee in a multinational bank, who resides in Jungpura area.
"The cost of power has gone manifold. We are really having a difficult time as prices of vegetables and essential commodities have also gone up substantially," he said.
Alleging collusion between Delhi government and private power distribution companies, BJP has been asking Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit why her government had restrained the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission in May 2010 to announce a cut in tariff by almost 25 per cent.
In an unusual move, Delhi government on May 4, 2010 had forced DERC not to announce the new tariff order apparently coming under pressure from the three discoms which had complained that their demand for increasing power tariff has not been considered by the regulator while finalising the new tariff structure.
The DERC, which was making last minute preparations to announce the new tariff for the year 2010-11, after receiving the government directive had indicated that it had planned to cut down the tariff by 20 to 25 per cent as discoms would have had a surplus of around Rs 4,000 crore if the existing tariff was not changed.
Bansi Lal, President of Residents Welfare Association Saket, said problem of higher tariff hit the tenants most who are not being provided individual metres by their landlords.
BJP tried to corner the government by organising a series of `Bijli rallies` in August. The party has already announced that if voted to power it will reduce the electricity tariff by 30 per cent.
The Aam Aadmi Party, too, has held umpteen number of rallies and protests, including refusal to pay power bills and restarting connections snapped by authorities, even at `galli-mohalla` level and demanded that the electricity rates be reduced by at least 23 per cent.
However, Congress government has time and again accused both BJP and Congress of "misleading" people on the issue claiming that Delhi is getting cheapest power among all metro cities.
Rebutting AAP and BJP`s allegation, Delhi Government said privatisation of power sector in Delhi has been very successful and it has resulted in saving of around Rs 30,000 crore by the city government in last ten years.
The discoms maintain that the tariff hike has been because the production cost has increased several folds, mainly because the cost of procuring power has gone up.
"We do not produce power we purchase power from generating companies which are government owned, there are central government owned companied like NTPC, NHPC or Satluj Vidyut Nigam or state controlled Rajghat or Indraprastha or Bawana.
"Now, when you look at these generating stations, they were supplying at an average cost of one rupee 52 paisa (in 2002). Today they are supplying at an average rate of about Five rupees 45 paisa.
"So the increase is about 270 per cent. And the increase in tariff that has taken place in the last 10 years to the consumer, the increase has been from 70-75 per cent to about 100-120 per cent," said Praveer Sinha, chairman Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited.