Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Sunday skipped a scheduled tree plantation programme where Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena was present, with the Aam Aadmi Party accusing the Prime Minister’s Office of trying to “hijack” the event — by getting a poster with PM Narendra Modi’s image put up at the venue at the last minute.
The event, to plant one lakh trees in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, was organised by the Delhi government’s Environment and Forest Department. As per the programme, the L-G, the Chief Minister and Environment Minister Gopal Rai were supposed to attend.
Rai alleged that the banner finalised for the event had photographs of Saxena and Kejriwal and was to be displayed on a LED screen at the venue. He claimed the PMO sent Delhi Police officials to “hijack” the stage on Saturday night and cover the LED screen with a banner that had a photo of the PM, along with that of the L-G and CM.
Delhi Govt के वन महोत्सव में CM @ArvindKejriwal को शामिल होना था
लेकिन प्रधानमंत्री कार्यलय के आदेश पर Police ने मंच पर कब्ज़ा कर ज़बरदस्ती Modi जी की तस्वीर लगा दी और हटाने पर गिरफ़्तारी की धमकी दी
मोदी जी दिल्ली Govt के कायर्क्रम में अपनी तस्वीर लगाकर क्या साबित करना चाहते? pic.twitter.com/B3Hdo5KCLr
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) July 24, 2022
“The CM and L-G had to attend the event together but it is very unfortunate that in this government programme, at the behest of the PMO, police were sent and were made to hijack the pandal and stage at the venue. On the stage, a banner with Modi’s photo was placed. People were told that if it is removed, action would be taken against them. As per the programme, the banner would be flashed on an LED screen and awareness programmes for children would be played following that. But a banner was placed on the LED to cover it. This is unfathomable,” Rai said.
DCP PRO Suman Nalwa and DCP (South) Benita Mary Jaiker refused to comment on Rai’s allegations. Sources in the police said they were asked to go to the venue to “help” with security arrangements and set up posters for “Modiji’s event”.
The L-G office’s did not respond to questions about the last-minute change in posters and who authorised it, and whether they had reached out to the Delhi government regarding the change. Sources in the office said the Delhi government had sent them designs for the banner, which included only the photos of the CM and L-G, on Wednesday. They added that they replied to the government with the new design (with the PM’s photo) on Thursday.
The AAP-led Delhi government has had several run-ins with the Lt-Governor since 2015. However, ties have particularly been strained with the new L-G, V K Saxena, since his appointment in May. The first major flashpoint was over the L-G ordering a probe into allegations of “irregularities” against PWD officials in the construction of seven temporary hospitals during Covid. The move had drawn a sharp reaction from the AAP, which accused him of interfering in construction of hospitals in the city.
A Delhi government official confirmed that the banner design was finalised on Thursday, but said that this final design did not include the PM’s photo.
On allegations of politicisation, sources in the L-G’s office said everything regarding the programme had to be decided mutually. “They (Delhi government) did not deliberately invite even the area MP, despite the fact that during the last joint visit to Bhatti Mines by L-G and CM, they ensured their area MLA was present. Although, they were asked specifically to not invite MP or MLA and give a political hue to the visit,” said a source.
Officials also said that the CM’s posters were not removed from anywhere. “Nothing was torn. Standees and billboards displaying CM’s pictures are there for all to see even now,” said an official.
Sunday’s incident comes days after the L-G recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, putting Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, in-charge of the excise department, directly in the line of fire.
This is part of a series of escalations between the Delhi government and the L-G office, which have cropped up after Saxena took over two months ago. On Friday, the CM did not attend a scheduled meeting with Saxena.