Arvind Kejriwal, Najeeb Jung take bureaucrats issue to President
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New Delhi: The tussle for power between the Centre and the Delhi government intensified on Tuesday, with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and lieutenant-governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung meeting separately with President Pranab Mukherjee over the recent appointment of top bureaucrats in the state government.
Also on Tuesday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government appointed a principal secretary of general administration bypassing Jung, potentially raising the stakes in the political battle.
Speaking to reporters after Kejriwal’s meeting, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, “We told the President that the L-G is trying to run the government as if Delhi is under President’s rule and there is no elected government here. The biggest example of this is that he is giving direct orders to officials and is bypassing the chief minister and other ministers. In the last week, four such incidents have happened when the L-G is directly ordering officers. He is even threatening them with transfers if they do not follow his instructions. This is not good for democracy.”
Sisodia pointed out that in spite of disagreements, the Delhi government had agreed to the L-G’s appointment of power secretary Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary.
“We told the President that we accepted L-G’s decision to appoint acting chief secretary even without consulting us. But after that, too, he has been appointing officers, bypassing the elected government. He is even interfering in the appointment of secretaries and directly ordering them. Then where is democracy?” he said.
Sisodia told reporters that the President assured them that he would look into the issue.
The LG’s office has not issued an official statement.
The tussle started with the appointment of Gamlin as acting chief secretary in the absence of chief secretary K.K. Sharma, who is on a 10-day leave from 13 May. Kejriwal claimed Gamlin had previously tried to “trick” his government into signing documents to give more money to power firms.
On Monday, the AAP government removed principal secretary for services Anindo Majumdar, who had authorized the appointment of Gamlin. But the government’s order appointing Rajendra Kumar in place of Majumdar was declared void by Jung.
Kejriwal has also directed Delhi government bureaucrats, including the chief secretary, that all orders issued by the L-G should first be shown to him or the appropriate minister before any action is taken on them.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, in a letter to the Delhi government, said, “The chief minister has a perfect right to a chief secretary of his choice. I am firmly of the opinion that this crisis has been created entirely by the L-G.”
Dhavan said a “lapse of 40 hours in finding a replacement for Sharma is not sufficient reason for the L-G to impose his choice on the CM, especially when his urgency powers arise only when a reference is pending before the central government”.
Abhay Kumar Dubey, a Delhi-based political analyst, said, “The way this controversy is unfolding, if it is not solved soon, it could have a serious problem for Centre-state relations.
Opposition parties are already in support of Kejriwal.”
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley waded into the controversy on Tuesday.
“The people of Delhi experimented with a new party in the elections, but it is a very costly experiment because governance is not their political agenda,” he said.
“Whatever is happening in Delhi in the last few months, it seems the coming days may be painful. The AAP government came following a huge mandate. They should understand their responsibilities. People want governance and not controversy. So they should understand their responsibilities and fulfil people’s expectations,” Jaitley said.
The AAP, which won 67 of the 70 seats in Delhi’s assembly elections in February, hit back at Jaitley through a note.
“The comments of BJP leader and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, terming the historic mandate by the people of Delhi for AAP as an ‘experiment’ have exposed his deep frustration and anti-democratic stance. It is shocking that an individual holding an important portfolio in the Union council of ministers has chosen to mock the will of the residents of the national capital,” it said.
The statement added, “The historic election results in February, which have made the BJP and the Congress irrelevant in the electoral politics of national capital are reverberating in the words of political leaders like Jaitley.”
PTI contributed to this story.