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Free power, ration delivery — Kejriwal’s IITian aides are leading key schemes for Punjab govt

Gopal Mohan and Jasmine Shah have been point persons for flagship projects of AAP govt in Delhi, including public WiFi hotspots, apps for Covid management & electric vehicle policy.

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Chandigarh: Some key aides and advisors of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, including Gopal Mohan and Jasmine Shah are also the point persons for several crucial policies and schemes currently being drafted by the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab, ThePrint has learnt. Both are graduates of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), as is Kejriwal himself.

Several senior Punjab government officials told ThePrint that Mohan is the point person on policies such as providing 300 units of free electricity per month to all households in the state, and the doorstep delivery of rations, while Shah’s team has largely been engaged in research for drafting policies in sectors such as transport and social security.   

Since the AAP came to power in Punjab last month, it has had to contend with claims that a great deal of decision-making is done by the party’s top leadership based in Delhi. While Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has dismissed allegations of being controlled by the Delhi leadership, he has also been assertive about seeking help from them and sending ministers and officers for aid and advice.

According to a senior government official in the national capital — where the AAP has been in power with a full majority since 2015 — Mohan has been the Delhi government’s point person for several flagship projects.

These include installing CCTV across the city, public WiFi hotspots, developing mobile applications for Covid-19 management, and the doorstep delivery of rations – a scheme the AAP has announced in Punjab after the Centre refused to allow it in Delhi.

“He (Mohan) is one of the main advisors of Arvind Kejriwal. It is not surprising at all that he is helping out the new AAP government in Punjab. As the AAP expands its footprints, he is likely to get more assignments,” said a senior AAP functionary who did not wish to be identified.

A graduate of IIT Delhi, Mohan joined the AAP as an anti-corruption advisor in 2012. He has been an advisor to Kejriwal on policy affairs since 2015.

Shah, an alumnus of IIT Madras and Columbia University in the US, is the vice chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi, a policy advisory body of the Delhi government. Shah has a team of his own and plays a key role in the AAP’s communication outreach, reporting directly to Kejriwal. He works very closely with Delhi’s finance and transport ministries.

For at least four years now, said the senior Delhi government official quoted above, Shah has been an advisor to the AAP government on budgetary and transport policies. He is also the government’s point person for flagship programmes such as the electric vehicle (EV) policy and bus route rationalisation.

‘Training’ for Punjab officials in Delhi, opposition attacks

In his first interaction with newly elected AAP legislators in Punjab a day after the party’s massive 10 March victory, Bhagwant Mann, who would later be sworn in as chief minister, was very open about taking suggestions from Delhi.

On 23 March, Punjab’s finance minister, Harpal Singh Cheema, came to Delhi for training on preparing and presenting the budget, he told ThePrint in an interaction outside the Delhi Assembly.

The party came under attack from the opposition when two top bureaucrats in the Punjab government met Kejriwal at his residence in Delhi on 11 April. The opposition in Punjab alleged that the state’s AAP government was controlled by party leaders in Delhi.

However, Mann later asserted that he was the one who had sent the officers to Delhi for “training”, and that he would not hesitate to do so again.


Also read: Looking to save costs, Punjab’s AAP govt deliberates on excluding big farmers from power subsidy


 

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