Congress MLAs slam salary hike

Say public sentiment is against the move, especially after power tariff in the city was increased

Voices of dissent have started coming out from within the ruling Congress party over the hike in power tariff by Delhi government. And things have taken an unusual turn. Soon after the Delhi assembly on Monday passed a bill enhancing the salary of city MLAs and ministers, a number of Congress MLAs openly criticised the government.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit

The MLAs say the timing of the salary hike is such that they would not be able to face their respective constituencies. "At a time when people have been imposed with 22 per cent power tariff hike, how would we justify increasing our salaries?" said an MLA.  BJP has been criticising the government for power tariff hike and demanding a rollback and audit of accounts of power distributing companies by an independent agency.

Congress MLAs Subhash Chopra

Power play
"We would like the government to give an increased reimbursement of power and electricity bills to power companies so that they reduce the hiked power tariff. We demand Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to look into the matter," said Mustafabad Congress MLA Hasan Ahmed.

Mukesh Sharma

Others who have come out in the open criticising the government are Congress MLAs Subhash Chopra and Mukesh Sharma, apart from a Rashtriya Janta Dal MLA Asif Mohammad Khan. "We want the government to rollback the power tariff hike. We are the elected representatives of the people. If we do not take it up, who else would highlight this issue? It is not a political issue," added Subhash Chopra, Kalkaji Congress MLA.

Senior Congress leader and three-time MLA Mukesh Sharma went a step further and said, "The accounts of power distributing companies should be audited. At a time when the power companies are making profit, there is no reason why the government should impose a hike of 22 per cent in the electricity bills of the common man."

On the other hand, though the BJP did not oppose the government's move of hiking salaries of MLAs, it has fresh ammunition to target the government with support coming from within the ruling party as well. Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly, VK Malhotra said, "We have already demanded audit of accounts of power distribution firms by an independent agency. The government should immediately rollback the hike in power tariff as people are already facing an all-time high inflation." 

Shock and awe

The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission increased power prices by up to 21.77 per cent last Friday and agreed to power companies' demand that tariff be revised every quarter to make up for fluctuations in fuel price. The government says there was no increase in the last six years. The fuel price has increased by 103 per cent since 2005 and power purchase cost (for the companies) has increased from Rs 1.52 per unit to Rs 4.25. 

Why complain?
An MLA who currently gets nearly Rs 42,000 per month, including all incentives, will get nearly Rs one lakh while the monthly emolument of a minister will go up to Rs 1.30 lakh from the current Rs 60,000 a month. The MLAs who get Rs 500 per day when the Assembly is in session will now get a daily allowance of Rs 1,000 throughout the year. The house rent has been increased from current Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per month for the MLAs while the monthly constituency allowance has been increased to Rs 18,000 from Rs 8,000. The basic salary of MLAs has been increased from Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000 while basic salary of ministers has been hiked to Rs 20,000 from Rs 10,000 per month. The legislators will also get Rs 12,000 towards phone bill and up to Rs 6,000 for water and electricity bills. MLAs will also get annual travel allowance of Rs 50,000, up from Rs 35,000.

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