At the three-hour meeting held by the chief minister and his deputy chief minister with heads of departments and principal secretaries on Wednesday, Arvind Kejriwal told senior officials that there was no trust deficit between the political executive and the bureaucracy in his government.
The meeting assumes importance in the backdrop of the escalating row between Kejriwal and Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung over the appointment of an acting chief secretary. Some bureaucrats, however, said confusion prevailed even after the meeting.
“He (Kejriwal) has said this before and he said it again on Wednesday. He told us that he is with us and we all have to work together. He also said he will stand by his officers if they commit a bonafide mistake,” a senior official said.
Sources told The Indian Express that Kejriwal did not attend the entire meeting but opened it and left for another function. Officials were given a 14-page presentation on the provisions of the Constitution, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Rules of Business framed by the central government under Section 44. Some officers, however, felt that educating them about these rules was irrelevant.
“We know these rules by heart and we know the process. The presentation should have been made at Raj Niwas so that both CM and L-G would have a better understanding of each other’s work,” one of the bureaucrats said.
Sources said there was a discussion after the presentation and an official pointed out that while the Delhi government — to assert the power of the chief minister to appoint a chief secretary of his choice — had relied on the Supreme Court judgment of Samsher Singh vs State of Punjab in 1974 to mean that the advice of the chief minister/prime minister shall be binding on the Governor/President, there was another judgment of the Supreme Court in 1982, that had made a distinction between a Governor and a Lt-Governor. “There were judgments and counter-judgments being cited by different officials,” a source said.
Few officers also raised the issue of working in the “stressful” environment vitiated by many elements. The pressure and threats were also mentioned to the deputy CM who again blamed the media for creating rifts among bureaucrats and the cabinet, a senior bureaucrat said.
“In the light of media reports about bureaucratic morale taking a hit in the last few days after a controversy was created over the appointment of Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary, the deputy chief minister made an attempt to allay fears over a trust deficit between the political executive and the bureaucracy. He said there is no such thing and the government stands by its bureaucrats,” another source said.
A source said officials were also provided a list of subjects that need mandatory approval from the L-G. “The list includes things such as public order, minority affairs, Centre-state relations or disciplinary authority. We were told that in such matters we have to seek the approval from L-G but not in the rest,” an official said.
“Day-to-day work has not been affected by the differences between the offices of the CM and the L-G. May be a little in departments like services or administration. But we all want that unpleasant things to come to an end and the government to function smoothly,” another official said.
Another senior bureaucrat said after explaining the rules to the deputy CM, it is understood that the issue between L-G and CM would be resolved.
“It seems the deputy CM understood that there are certain reserved issues on which the file must go to L-G. The due process is expected to be followed.” he said.