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Top Controversies of AAP Government

July 4, 2015

Never before in independent India did the battle to rule Delhi assume such a bitter turn as it is now. In the last six months, the battle for supremacy in the national capital between the Aam Aadmi Party government- duly elected with overwhelming majority- and the city’s Lieutenant Governor (LG) has not just tested the limits of the country’s federal structure, but also the jurisdiction of an elected government. It exposed the complexities involved in governing a city-state that is not yet a full-fledged state but aspires for full statehood.

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Controversies Over Governance

The classic tussle between the AAP government and the Lieutenant Governor has assumed alarming proportions with both sides jostling with each other to capitalise on the many grey areas of governance. Ever since the AAP came to power by winning 67 of the 70 state assembly seats in February 2015, complexities involved in the administration of Delhi have led to confrontation between the elected state government and an appointed executive, who was accountable only to the Union Government rather than the electorates.

The inherent limitations of the Delhi government has led to a direct clash between the government and the lieutenant governor. The government has limited legislative powers and needs the approval of the Lieutenant Governor, the ministries of Urban Development and Home Affairs and the assent of the President before enacting a legislation in some 60 matters related to municipal governance,

Much has already been debated on the LG’s directive to all ministers and officials of the Delhi government to refer to him all files on various issues as stipulated under the Constitution. The unease between two distinct centres of power begets controversy. While the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung asserts his authority, the Delhi chief minister stays firm on his belief that the governor is the “polling agent” of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Consider how Kejriwal protested the appointment of Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary of Delhi by the Lieutenant Governor in May this year. Kejriwal went on to allege that the LG was “functioning as if there is President’s Rule in the national capital and there is no elected government here” by bypassing the “democratically elected government…(and) issuing instructions to officers”.

The LG claimed that he only exercised his powers to appoint and transfer officers while Kejriwal went on to accuse Gamlin of favouring two Reliance Infra-owned power distribution companies through a Rs.11,000-crore loan. Further controversies were stoked as Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju stepped in to claim that the Delhi CM had “insulted” the people of Northeast (as Gamlin as well as Rijiju himself belonged to the Northeast).

Controversies over governance continued to grip the national capital. Kejriwal went on to accuse the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre of conspiring with the LG to dislodge the AAP government and the CM’s office gave orders to lock the office of the Principal Secretary (Services), Anindo Majumdar, who had issued the order notifying the appointment of power secretary Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary. However, the Lieutenant Governor cancelled the removal of Majumdar.

Yet, the disputes over governance issues fail to cease. The latest being the tussle over MK Meena’s appointment as the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the Delhi government by the LG despite the AAP government’s objections. Always in the confrontationist mode, the AAP government appointed SS Yadav as the head of the ACB that made the entity function with two heads! Finally, on 29 June, the Delhi High Court asked Meena to act in “accordance with the law”, refusing to issue directions to restrain him from entering ACB’s office.

As it is, every act of assertion of supremacy by the the LG and the CM is being protested by both as they seek to exploit certain grey areas in governance that require immediate redressal. What is required is a detailed relook at Article 239AA of Constitution on special provisions with respect to Delhi vis-a-vis the powers of the CM and LG. This Article was inserted in the Constitution by the 69th Amendment, but now it proves to be inadequate. In his first term as CM, too, Kejriwal had hit at the inadequacies in Article 239AA. During his 49-day government, he clashed with Jung over seeking the Centre’s approval to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly. (refer to http://www.elections.in/blog/war-arvind-kejriwal-najeeb-jung/).

Fake Degree Case and Other Controversies

Yet, administration and governance are not the only concern for AAP as it steps into controversies beyond these issues. Consider how Kejriwal has enough firefighting at hand to do in the wake of the arrest of his law minister Jitender Singh Tomar over a fake degree, and the charges of domestic violence by the wife of his MLA and a minister in the last AAP government, Somnath Bharti (http://www.elections.in/blog/is-aap-government-fighting-for-the-people/). In fact, another AAP MLA Bhavna Gaur’s name, too, now surfaces in another fake degree racket!

Soon after the AAP formed its government in Delhi, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan – considered among the founding fathers of the party revolted against the style of functioning of Kejriwal and quit the party to form their own separate socio-political outfit.

As if these were not enough, yet another founding member and a close associate of Kejriwal, Kumar Vishwas, was summoned by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) after an AAP volunteer from Amethi accused him of ignoring her request to c the allegations of “illicit affair” between the two. Vishwas outrightly denied such allegations and the DCW dropped the case. Yet, the episode showed the prevalence of hostile elements within the party itself who have often demonstrated their nuisance value.

In fact, over the past couple of years, Kejriwal and controversies have become inseparable. The peeved leader, in a bid to dissociate himself from these controversies, has desperately sought escape routes that have dragged him into further controversies. One such example was his demand for “public trials” of news channels, which he holds responsible for escalating his problems. “If you see that a particular channel is showing something factually incorrect, then you should raise the issue…There can be a public trial…” His call only invited more controversies and it was seen as an effort to muzzle free media.

Kejriwal drew much flak following the suicide of a farmer from Rajasthan at the former’s rally at Jantar Mantar in Lutyen’s Delhi. Media highlighted how the Delhi CM went on with his speech even when the farmer Gajendra Singh hung himself from a tree hardly 50 metres away and committed suicide in full public glare. “I think that was my mistake. Probably, I should not have spoken. If that has hurt anyone’s sentiments, I would like to apologise… But please focus on the real issue of the farmers and desist from politicking,” a defiant Kejriwal had then said. Initially, he blamed the Delhi Police for the suicide, and again courted controversy by declaring Gajendra a martyr. On 2 July, the Delhi High Court slammed the Kejriwal government for declaring the dead farmer a martyr and sought reply within four weeks on how he was declared a martyr.

The AAP’s present reign, much like its earlier 49-day rule in 2013-14, is mired in controversies. In his first stint as the Chief Minister, Kejriwal had even sat on a Dharna and slept on road to protest the alleged high-handedness of the Delhi police that does not fall under the purview of the Delhi government. This time, he has avoided any similar sit-ins. But he does have a penchant for inviting controversies! As BJP leader and Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said recently: “The problem is they (AAP leaders) want to remain in controversy.” Obviously, Kejriwal does thrive on it. Any doubt?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.

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