Outside support started pouring in for the sit-in protest at Raj Niwas by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and three of his cabinet colleagues that entered its fifth day today, Friday, June 15.
The Delhi CM and his ministers are staging the sit-in to persuade the Lt Governor Anil Baijal to ask the IAS officers to resume regular work
The demands are:
* Issue a direction to IAS officers to end their “strike”
* Action against those who have struck work for “four months”
* Approve the proposal for doorstep delivery of rations.
From Thursday, support for Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government poured in from other quarters. Several personalities and regional parties, including the Trinamool Congress, backed the Kejriwal-led protest.
Appealing the Centre to resolve the crisis immediately, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, “Elected Chief Minister must get due respect. May I appeal to the government of India and the LG to resolve the problem immediately so that people do not suffer.”
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also requested PM Modi’s intervention in the ongoing tussle between the Delhi Government and the LG. In a letter addressed to the PM, Vijayan said, “I write to you in hope that the spirit of the Constitution will be upheld. I request your personal intervention to ensure that the work of the Delhi Government should proceed without hindrance,” he said.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Chaudhary also called the situation in Delhi a “governance failure”.
Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who is also a former IAS officer, too, joined the AAP workers during their protest on Tuesday. “Had Atal Bihari Vajpayee been the PM, he would have ordered the Home Minister to open a dialogue with the elected CM,” Sinha said.
Taking to Twitter, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury accused the BJP, at the Centre, of “using the office of the LG” to ensure the Delhi government is unable to “discharge its constitutional duties”. He tweeted, “BJP central government is using the office of the LG to obstruct the elected state government in Delhi to discharge its constitutional duties. This is despicable. The Centre must abandon this course of confrontation right away.”
CPI wrote to LG saying, “No constitutional authority of Delhi can bypass or neglect the Govt of Delhi in any matter of Governance of Delhi”. The party says the L-G is duty-bound to meet Kejriwal and his ministers.
Noted actor Kamal Haasan said in a tweet: “Interference in the functioning of an elected government is unacceptable in a democracy. In fact what is happening in Delhi and in TN/Pondicherry are not too different. It is frustrating for people who want a change for the better.”
The Delhi High Court, on the other hand, agreed to hear on June 18 a plea seeking to declare the sit-in by the CM and his cabinet colleagues as unconstitutional and illegal. The petition was mentioned before Justice C Hari Shankar who said that it be listed for hearing on Monday. The plea filed by petitioner Hari Nath Ram sought direction for discharging the chief ministerial obligations and responsibilities as the entire functioning of the Chief Minister office of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi has been brought to a “stand still” since the sit-in started.
The IAS offcers in Delhi government claim they are not on strike – something they cannot admit to without risking their jobs – but are only staying away from meetings with Kejriwal government ministers since their feel unsafe. The reason they cite is the alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash when he went for a late night meeting at Kejriwal’s residence. They demand that the CM apologise to them for the incident.
A case was lodged with Delhi Police soon after the alleged assault and the case is under investigation. The CM and ministers have been questioned at length and their premises searched thoroughly. There are no reports of any questioning that any bureaucrat was subjected to in the case.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleges that the LG, under instructions from the Modi government at the Centre, has been “coordinating” the IAS officers “strike” to hobble the Delhi government’s functioning and prevent it from carrying out any work. CM Kejriwal and his three ministers have been sitting in Raj Niwas seeking a meeting with LG Anil Baijal, asking him to get the officers back to normal work.
Kejriwal has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising the issue of problems being faced by Delhi and the need to attend to them.
So far, there is no resolution in sight.
The BJP and the Congress are both attacking the AAP government, alleging that it is trying to find excuses for its incompetence and failure to deliver by blaming officers. They also contend that officers were attending to work and that the CM and his ministers were running away from their responsibilities, accusing them of being on a strike.
The BJP has also been pointing to several problems that Delhi citizens are facing because of Delhi government’s inability to deliver – a point that AAP government says establishes its contention that work was being hampered because officers are not working.
On Thursday, several Aam Aadmi Party leaders marched to LG Anil Baijal’s residence and chanted slogans such as “LG sahab, Delhi Chhodo (LG, quit Delhi)”. The party has planned to hold a candlelight march at Raj Ghat to keep the momentum going. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal alleged that Baijal is doing “nothing” to break the impasse despite repeated requests from the party and sought the PM’s intervention in the case.
Meanwhile, the stand of the bureaucrats, the LG , the Centre and the BJP has come in for some scathing criticism. The officers’ continuing protest and their demand for apology, on the very face of it, lacks merit when a criminal case has already been filed with Delhi Police. The demand would mean they want the CM to apologise and also prosecute him.
Some former bureaucrats also questioned the IAS officers’ stand, pointing out instances where they have been subjected to worse under governments of other parties but there was not a squeak from any of them. Instances mentioned include the treatment meted out to bureaucrats by different chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the assault on Puri district collector, the remarks on IAS officers by union minister Dharmendra Pradhan. They have also not dared to protest the move to allot cadres only after Foundation Course rather than civil service examination results, or the decision to bypass the UPSC in going for lateral recruitment into IAS at joint secretary level.
A former bureaucrat who resigned from IAS to follow his own interests, TR Raghunandan has this to say: “So what makes IAS officers unusually bold when it comes to Kejriwal? Why are they capable of defying him to the extent that they have done? The answer is simple: he does not, in his current position as Chief Minister of Delhi, control the progression of their careers. If he were a CM of a full state, or if Delhi were a full state, they would toe his line.
“So all this hype about the behaviour of the Delhi government being unprecedented is nonsense. In fact, on the other hand, the differential outrage of the IAS to the alleged misconduct of the Delhi government, while being silent to other slurs and body blows to the IAS delivered by the Modis and Adityanaths of this world, is entirely predictable, given their careerist obsessions.”
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