The extraordinary political tamasha in the national capital continues for the second successive week on Tuesday. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers took over the lounge of the office of the Union Territory’s Lt Governor Anil Baijwal without as much as by your leave and have camped there since. Outside, hundreds of AAP workers, lugged daily by the legislators, enact another drama, abusing Baijal, Prime Minister Modi and even IAS officers whom they accuse of not doing the party’s bidding. It is an unprecedented situation when an incumbent chief minister virtually siege to the office of another constitutional authority and refuses to vacate unless his demands are met. But the demands are so bizarre that nobody is in a position to meet them.
For, one of the major demands is that the Delhi Government bureaucracy should cooperate with the AAP ministers. The IAS Association was constrained to take the extraordinary step of addressing a press conference to clarify the position, insisting that they were fully performing all the statutory duties but, at the same time, unready to meet ministers informally for fear of being abused and/or assaulted. The latter fear stems from the roughing up of the chief secretary, Anshu Prakash, at midnight in the presence of the chief minister. Kejriwal’s refusal to express regret for the well-planned assault was behind the work-to-rule approach of the Delhi bureaucracy. Admittedly, neither the LG nor the Centre has felt the need to cooperate with the Kejriwal government due to the AAP leader’s abusive tirade against them from the day one and his concerted effort to expand his role and functions far beyond those prescribed under the law. The fact that Delhi is a B-Category State where certain functions, such as law and order, land, personnel, etc vest with the Centre or its representative, the LG, is something Kejriwal most stubbornly refuses to appreciate.
He is not elected the absolute monarch of Delhi. He, too, has to work within the constitutional framework, like Shiela Dikshit or Madan Lal Khurana before him. This is the cause of constant bickering and recriminations from the time the AAP won an overwhelming majority in the Assembly three years ago. The problem with Kejriwal is that he refuses to work within the system. On the other side, the Centre has been equally firm in not yielding an inch to the bullying and intimidation of the Delhi CM. The result is an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force is a first rate constitutional crisis. Aside from making, not unlike the US President Trump, frequent noises of having done wonders in the field of education and health in the hope that some people will trust him, as some indeed have fallen into the trap, there is little on the credit side of AAP in the last three years. Yet, with an eye on the parliamentary poll next year, Kejriwal seems to have reverted fully to the agitation mode, in order to explain his failure to keep the tall promises he had made to the people. Even the Lokayukt has not been appointed by the Delhi Government, the starting point of the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign which gave birth to the AAP.
Happily, the Delhi high court might provide the squatters in the air-conditioned lounge of the LG office a face-saver. Hearing a bunch of PILs, which sought Kejriwal and Co to perform its constitutional functions, a two-member bench of the court asked as to who had given them permission to perform sit-in/dharna inside Raj Niwas and went on to say, “You cannot go inside someone’s office or house to hold a strike there…” Given the illegality of the action in all probability, the court would direct them to clear out of the LG office immediately at its next hearing on June 22. Curiously, when the court asked whether the CM and ministers were constitutionally justified to sit on dharna, the Delhi Government lawyer said that they were doing so in their individual capacity. The follow-up question whether all individuals can lay siege to the LG office remained unasked, though the answer was clear. Even such sophistry does not aid Kejriwal’s cause. The only course available to him is to render an unconditional apology to the chief secretary and seek the cooperation of the bureaucracy in the larger interest of the people who gave AAP a huge mandate only three years ago. Let him not squander it fully.