The third floor of the Delhi Secretariat, where Chief Minister’s Arvind Kejriwal’s offices are located and which has traditionally been the seat of power in the capital, wears a deserted look. Two IAS officers have been suspended following investigations into graft cases, while three have sought transfers, leave or repatriation, sources said. This means there will soon be no officers in the Delhi Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).
“This practically paralyses the CMO and leaves four members in Kejriwal’ staff. But none of them are bureaucrats or have any say in governance. Since bureaucrats play a vital role in ensuring work gets done, this is akin to crippling the government,” a government source said. A government spokesperson confirmed that “the CMO will have no officers soon”.
The first two officers to leave the CMO were former principal secretary Rajendra Kumar, and Tarun Sharma, the former deputy secretary to the CM. Kumar, a 1989-batch IAS officer, and Sharma, who was known to be close to Kejriwal, were arrested by the CBI in July 2016 in an alleged case of abusing their position by “favouring a particular firm in the last few years in getting tenders of Delhi government departments”.
Both officers were suspended and Kumar, who claimed that interrogators had promised to set him free if he implicated Kejriwal, sought voluntary retirement in December. Sukesh Kumar Jain, a 1992-batch IRS officer, was appointed Officer on Special Duty to Kejriwal in March, 2015. Jain, who was at the time the director in the Central Board of Direct Taxes under the Union Finance Ministry, has now sought repatriation. A source said, “Kumar wrote to the Centre last week to seek repatriation. He is likely to leave soon.”
Deepak Virmani, a 1995-batch DANICS cadre officer, was given additional charge of additional secretary to Kejriwal on March, 2016. He was also the general manager of the Department of Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited at the time. A government official said, “Virmani has applied for study leave for one year. He will be studying policy research and will be relieved from government duty. But he will be studying in Delhi.”
Geetika Sharma, a 1996-batch DANICS officer, had received transfer orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the same day Kumar and Sharma were arrested in 2016. She was to be transferred to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but her transfer was averted. She was in-charge of development of unauthorised colonies at the time.
Sisodia had then attacked the Centre for its attempt to “destroy Delhi”. On May 29 this year, sources said, Sharma received her transfer orders. “She will be joining the Election Commission of India and will be leaving soon,” a source said.
Speaking about the atmosphere at the CMO, a senior government official at the Delhi Secretariat said, “There is fear and trepidation; little work is happening. Some officers are convinced this government won’t last the full term, so they are apprehensive of being identified with the AAP government.”
The Aam Aadmi Party has repeatedly maintained that the Lieutenant Governor’s office, whose prerogative it is to transfer officers, has been trying to weaken the Delhi government. While the L-G’s office has denied this, a senior AAP leader claimed, “None of the transfers took place in consultation with the Delhi government. The CM and L-G are supposed to meet every Wednesday to ensure there is no clash between the two offices. This week, Kejriwal couldn’t meet because of the Assembly. When the CMO called Raj Niwas, they were informed that the L-G had no time, even though he has time to meet Kapil Mishra.”