As the confrontion between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and him turned into a full-blown war on Saturday, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung overruled yet another order of the Delhi government. In a letter where he clarified charges by AAP leaders, including that there was an attempted “coup”, Jung cancelled the removal of Principal Secretary (Services) Anindo Majumdar.
Earlier in the day, Shakuntala Gamlin took charge as acting chief secretary despite being asked not to do so by the AAP government. Majumdar, who handles appointments and transfers, was removed soon after that by the Delhi government.
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Kejriwal tweeted that he had sought time from President Pranab Mukherjee to discuss the matter.
Jung appointed Gamlin as acting chief secretary on Friday, ignoring the Kejriwal government’s charge that she had close links with BSES discoms. Gamlin, the Principal Secretary (Power), assumed office hours after Kejriwal sent her a letter asking her not to do so as her appointment was “against” the rules.
In a letter to the Lt Governor on Saturday, Kejriwal said he was “aghast” at Jung’s “questionable instructions” issued directly to the Services Department. Alleging that Jung had intimidated Gamlin to “act in concert” with him, Kejriwal said, “Whatever the political pressure, you have a duty to uphold.”
Going on to cite rules to argue that Jung doesn’t have powers to take decisions on his own, the CM said, “May I ask you to cite the relevant article in the Constitution of India or service rules that gives you extraordinary powers to bypass and attempt to render the democratically elected government ineffective?”
Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, who holds charge of the Services Department, told PTI, “The BJP through the LG of Delhi has attempted a coup against the democratically elected government of Delhi with the highest ever mandate in the history of the state. This is for the first time that the LG is issuing direct instruction to officers, bypassing the chief ministers and council of ministers.”
In his tweets, Sisodia accused Jung of “trying to take charge of the Delhi government” and said they would approach the President. Whatever the President decides, Sisodia tweeted, should be communicated by Jung to the minister concerned first rather than directly to officials.
Jung reacted with a press release in the evening, saying that though he would respond to Kejriwal’s letter on the matter of Gamlin’s appointment “in due course”, he had been forced to issue a clarification as the letter had appeared in the public domain.
The release said, “The Lt Governor has acted fully conscious of his duties and responsibilities under the Constititution of India. Till date not a single action taken by the Lt Governor’s Secretariat is in non-confirmity with the provisions of the Constitution. In the instant case, the Hon’ble Chief Minister was duly consulted on file and the relevant notesheet is in public domain. The delay on the part of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of over 40 hours necesistated a direction from the Lt Governor that orders be issued. It is a given that the office of the Chief Secretary cannot be left vacant.”
Jung further said that he “regrets the insinuation against a respected senior civil servant (Gamlin) and the complaint will be examined as per procedure”.
On the issue of Majumdar, the release said, “(His removal) does not have the approval of the Lt Governor, who is the Competent Authority to transfer officials of that rank. This order is ab-initio void.”
Incidentally, in an embarrassment to the AAP government, former NDMC chairperson Parimal Rai, who was backed by Kejriwal as acting chief secretary, declined to take up the post. Sources said the officer wrote that he was touched by the faith the CM had reposed in him but wanted to opt out given the present situation. An acting chief secretary had to be picked up as Chief Secretary K K Sharma is away to the US on a personal leave of 10 days.