Is BJP impeding AAP govt work in Delhi?

By Sapan Kapoor

Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government’s tussle with LG Najeeb Jung over who should wield the power to rule Delhi seems to be never ending. For the Delhi government on Friday lashed out at the LG for allegedly “intimidating” senior officers and “shunting out an honest bureaucrat fighting against graft”.

While vowing to stand by its bureaucrats through thick and thin, the government has announced the setting up of a panel of three ministers so as to “protect bureaucrats from political victimisation”.

Kejriwal and Jung have been engaged in a war of words for a long time over the issue of transfer and posting of senior bureaucrats in the national capital, with both claiming the power to ‘rule the city’.

Things came to a head when Value Added Tax (VAT) Commissioner Vijay Kumar, who cracked down on organised tax evasion syndicates, was allegedly “shunted out”.

Launching a fresh salvo at the LG, the Delhi government said Jung had threatened several senior officers with dire consequences, including police action, “if they refuse to partake in the exercise of obstructing the functioning of the Delhi government,” adding that, “These officers were told to paralyse the elected AAP government by making adverse and obstructionist file notings against government decisions.”

The government also passed two resolutions against Jung on these issues.

“Why was he (VAT Commissioner Vijay Kumar) suddenly relieved by the hon’ble LG, keeping the chief minister also in the dark? This is not a transfer. This is shunting out of an officer who was fighting against corruption and against deeply entrenched vested interest,” the AAP government said in a statement.

“The cabinet is aghast to learn of these developments. This is a clear attempt to subvert the functioning of a democratically elected government which had come to power with a thumping majority.”

The government said it supported all officers and would even extend legal aid if they were pressurised by anyone. The LG, however, claimed he was simply following the orders of the Centre.

So who should be blamed for the prevailing political unrest in Delhi? That’s a good question to ponder over.

Kejriwal, a few weeks ago, suggested that LG Jung was just a puppet in the hands of PM Narendra Modi and, in fact, a good man under ‘bad political bosses’. Therefore, Kejriwal opined that removing him would serve no purpose as his successor would follow suit and the real solution was to ensure that PMO stopped interfering in the affairs of Delhi government.

However, in my opinion, this issue has more to do with BJP’s overall strategy to ensure that common man’s party is nipped in the bud, that it fails to become a serious alternative to the Congress party and major opposition at the national level to the former.

The AAP supremo seems to have a point, for the good governance model showcased during his 49-day rule apparently made his political opponents uneasy and insecure, especially the BJP. Instances of corruption came down, people stopped asking for bribes, common man’s voices and grievances were heard; or so claims Kejriwal.

He was hailed as the people’s CM. The only thing that remained the same was the pressing issue of crimes against women and children in the national capital as Delhi police was ‘unaccountable’ to the elected government of the state.

That the AAP government ‘succeeded’ in its efforts to bring the much-desired change in Delhi could also be attributed to the fact that the Centre was then ruled by a sympathetic Congress under mild, soft-spoken Manmohan Singh as compared to the Modi sarkar. Kejriwal’s regime also had an outside support of Congress MLAs. Najeeb Jung who was the Lieutenant Governor during the AAP’s 49-day stint apparently did not cross the red-line.

This is precisely why the people of Delhi handed over a thumping majority to the newbie outfit in 2014 Assembly polls; AAP comprehensively won 67 seats out of total 70, trouncing its rivals with a huge margin.

However, this time around Kejriwal (as claimed by him) found a hostile, unsympathetic Centre led by BJP’s Narendra Modi that seemed to be pulling out all the stops to impede his government’s work. Now to Kejriwal’s chagrin, he could not appoint the officials of his choice to various departments and, above all, lost control over the anti-corruption bureau in the Delhi government.

Delhi police continued to cock a snook at Kejriwal (duh).

Who should control Delhi? That is the question over which Kejriwal and Jung have been firing salvos at each other. There is, however, ambiguity over the powers of Delhi government as it is not a full-fledged state, and as per Schedule I of the Constitution continues to be a Union Territory.

States like Delhi and Puducherry enjoy a special status among Union Territories thanks to a number of amendments to the constitution. The will of Parliament prevails in other UTs. However, in the case of Delhi, its state Assembly has the right to legislate on all subjects except some such as law and order and land. In other words, AAP government’s powers are limited and hence the conflict.

However, in my opinion, this issue has more to do with BJP’s overall strategy to ensure that common man’s party is nipped in the bud, that it fails to become a serious alternative to the Congress party and major opposition at the national level to the former.

BJP’s ideological parent, the RSS, fully realising the challenges posed by AAP had warned the saffron party two years ago against the possible onslaught of the newbie while exhorting its political wing to consider Kejriwal’s outfit as a major opponent and obstacle to its road to power.

Having defeated left-leaning Congress comprehensively and reduced it to an all-time low figure in the Parliament, Narendra Modi’s BJP does not wish to cede much space to the AAP, lest it should grow stronger and big enough to counter. Attempts are being made to clip common man’s wings who saw the AAP as a ray of hope and the light at the end of the tunnel.

All right thinking Indians, therefore, must resist this attempt to hinder AAP from realising its full potential, for its idea is too precious to be allowed to fail.