Arvind Kejriwal publicly accused his power secretary of being "in cahoots with power companies" (photo: PTI)
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has chosen to attack Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and spark a constitutional crisis in Delhi, so that the AAP government can use the controversy to demand full statehood for Delhi. This is despite the obvious danger that a miscalculation can lead to a full-blown constitutional crisis.
The AAP knows, as everyone else does, that Delhi is different from other states in India. Since it is also the national capital, its Lieutenant Governor has far more executive powers than the Governor of a state.
Kejriwal is certainly aware of this delicate balance of power. Nevertheless, he is still adamant that the constitutional powers of the L-G should be handed over to his ministers. This is an absurd demand since it cannot be done without changing the Constitution.
The chief minister has persisted with his confrontation, alleging that the L-G’s appointment of senior bureaucrats was a ‘coup’ against his “democratically elected government”. In fact, Kejriwal has boasted his 67-seat majority so many times that he has apparently forgotten that 45.7 percent of Delhi’s voters did NOT vote for the AAP.
To claim the high moral ground, Kejriwal has even defamed a senior bureaucrat who cannot respond as she is bound by her service rules. Power Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin was appointed as acting chief secretary for 10 days as the incumbent was on leave – this was the spark that set off this entire confrontation, with Kejriwal opposing her appointment, even going to the extent of alleging at a public rally that Gamlin “was in cahoots with power companies”.
This is the same chief minister who had recently demanded action be taken against any defamation (i.e. criticism) of his government. For him to be defaming his own power secretary is therefore ironic.
So how will all this end?
Both Kejriwal and the L-G met President Pranab Mukherjee separately on Tuesday. Hopefully the president will have instilled some sense in the chief minister that the Delhi government needs to work within the Constitution. And that petulantly locking bureaucrats out of their office is a strict no no.
Whether Kejriwal heeds the message is another matter.