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New Delhi residents caught in power struggle

Large parts of New Delhi will be facing blackouts of up to 10 hours because of a standoff between the energy regulator and chief minister over energy costs. 

NEW DELHI: As many as a million homes are expected to be affected in the Indian capital New Delhi because of a standoff currently underway between the energy regulator and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal over energy costs.

This is because Mr Kejriwal has accused distributors of overcharging.

In a huge blow to Delhi residents who were hoping for a 50 per cent reduction in their power bills courtesy of their new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, they were instead hit with a double whammy on Friday.

They will not only have to pay 6 to 8 per cent more for electricity consumed, but might also have to endure power cuts that could last as long as 10 hours.

The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission ordered the price hike to compensate power distribution companies for the higher cost of power purchases in the previous quarter.

The Delhi government, however, condemned the move and even warned power companies of strict punitive action including the cancellation of their licenses.

"There will be no shortage of power supply” said Mr Kejriwal. “But I want to warn these power companies that if they try to create panic in future, the Delhi government will take strict action against them. We will cancel their licenses if they continue doing this.

“We will get other companies to supply power. There are more than these two, three companies in the country."

Mr Kejriwal has been at war with the power companies ever since he took over as chief minister in December.

His government had earlier ordered the national auditor to inspect the accounts of the three companies that supply power to Delhi -- which the companies have opposed.

"There is complete transparency in our working,” said Pravir Sinha, CEO of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited. “The companies from whom we buy electricity are also audited. They are all public sector undertakings."

The country's largest opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party also condemned the price hike and has accused the AAP government of failing to fulfil its electoral promises.

Before coming to power, the AAP had promised that it would slash energy prices for Delhiites, and it did partially succeed in fulfilling that promise when it announced a 50 per cent reduction in tariffs in December.

But the newly formed government's New Year gift to Delhi's residents didn't last long -- and this spat has become the first failure of sorts for the party that made some very big electoral promises.

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