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Gee, that was tough!
BJP Effect 1: Badal govt to absorb Rs 292-cr tariff
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 12
Bowing to pressure built up by BJP state leadership as well as its high command for the past several weeks, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal here today announced that the additional burden of hiked power tariff would not be passed on to consumers and would instead be borne by the state government.

The additional tariff burden was in the range of Rs 292 crore. “Decision to bear the burden by the state government would benefit about 66 per cent rural and 34 per cent urban consumers,” said a government spokesman.

The Tribune was first to break the story that Badal had conceded the BJP demand to pay subsidy to the PSEB in lieu of financial burden of revised power tariff on consumers.

The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Authority had hiked the power tariff from September 1 and the PSEB, sources said, had started charging it from the consumers. The BJP high command had to intervene and tell Badal that he should concede the demand of the BJP state unit that was against putting the burden of revised tariff on power consumers. Senior leaders of both the parties had met at Delhi on November 8 in this regard. Badal announced his decision regarding the tariff immediately after he got the recommendation from the joint coordination committee of the SAD and the BJP which met here this morning for about two hours. The committee had recommended to Badal that in the large interest of the people who are facing economic hardships, the burden of tariff hike should be borne by the state government. However, the committee’s meeting was just a façade because the decision to pay the subsidy had already been taken at a meeting in Delhi.

The state government will have to approach the electricity regulatory authority to tell that it would give the subsidy to the PSEB to offset the burden of revised tariff on consumers. If the authority accepted the state government’s plea, it would tell the PSEB further to revoke the decision regarding the charging of the bills on the basis of revised power tariff from consumers. Another way out is that the state government can write to the PSEB that it would pay subsidy to offset the burden of revised tariff and then the PSEB could approach the regulatory authority to get necessary orders passed by it.

But it is a first demand of the BJP. There are several other issues which are to be resolved yet. Important among them is the political appointments of chairpersons of various boards and corporations, posting of officers of the choice of BJP ministers in the departments held by them and the setting up of the mechanism to take decision regarding political and administrative appointments.

The BJP, the sources said, had eye on the chairmanship of the PSEB. Chairman Y.S.Ratra is due to retire early next year. The BJP wants that its man should replace him. “Badal has already appointed his own men as chairpersons of some of the important organisations such as the Mandi Board, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, the Punjab Law Commission, PESCO and the Punjab School Education Board etc,” said a BJP leader. The BJP had not got any share from these important appointments. “We will certainly claim the chairmanship of the PSEB,” he said.

Besides, there is issue of postings of officers at the senior level in the departments held by BJP ministers, who wanted officers of their choice. Some of the BJP ministers in “off the record” talk say that certain senior officers working under them care two hoots for them. They report “elsewhere” to take instructions to decide important matters.

Meanwhile, president of the Punjab unit of the BJP Rajinder Bhandari and local government minister Manoranjan Kalia have welcomed the decision.

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