Battle lines were clearly drawn in the Delhi government a day after Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash alleged AAP MLAs had assaulted him during a meeting at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence. While two AAP MLAs were arrested and sent to judicial custody, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, in a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), mentioned a “breakdown” between bureaucrats and the political leadership. As police announced the arrests, Prakash was called by the Assembly Privileges Committee in an ongoing enquiry into irregularities in appointments to the Delhi Nagrik Sehkari Bank, but he did not turn up.
While Deoli MLA Prakash Jarwal was arrested late Tuesday night, Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan was arrested after he surrendered Wednesday and Kejriwal’s advisor VK Jain, who was present at the meeting on Tuesday, was questioned by police. Prakash had alleged that he was assaulted by two MLAs at the CM’s residence on Monday night, where he was called for a meeting. After the arrests, the MLAs were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Shefali Barnala Tandon who declined police custody and said the MLAs were ready to cooperate with the probe. The court also directed the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police to personally monitor the case as it was “sensitive”.
Sources said the Lt Governor’s report to the MHA on Wednesday largely stuck to the sequence of events as described by Prakash in the complaint to police. While sources said Baijal has not made any specific remarks on the episode, he had observed the incident’s impact on the Delhi administration by such frictions and said that there was a “breakdown” in the relationship between the bureaucrats and the political leadership.
“We have received the report and are studying it. A considered view will be taken later,” a senior home ministry official said. The AAP has countered the allegations with complaints of its own. AAP MLAs Ajay Dutt and Jarwal filed a complaint against Prakash alleging he had made casteist remarks against them during the meeting. No FIR has been filed against this complaint.
In another FIR, alleging violence at the Delhi secretariat, Environment Minister Imran Hussain, his aide, Himanshu Singh and senior AAP leader Ashish Khetan said they were roughed up by a group of men. No arrests have been made so far against the FIR lodged against unknown people. AAP also shared a copy of Singh’s medico-legal case (MLC) report on Wednesday as well as video footage of the purported assault at the secretariat. According to Prakash’s MLC report, he had “tenderness and mild swelling” behind both ears, “bruise” on his lower lip and “swelling” on his cheekbone.
The IAS, Delhi and Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) and Delhi Administration Subordinate Services (DASS) associations had also resolved on Tuesday that they would only engage in written communication with elected government officials and no verbal communication would take place. This decision meant that communication on files and work went on at the secretariat but no meetings were held on Wednesday.
While Chief Secretary Prakash, did not attend a meeting of the Assembly Privileges Committee, two other officers, former Registrar of Companies, Shurbir Singh, and incumbent Registrar of Companies, JB Singh, who were also asked to be present, skipped the meeting. Sources in the officers’ associations said they were discussing possible means of protesting against AAP including wearing helmets to work, like doctors in Delhi protesting against frequent attacks by family members of patients.
AAP also alleged that Prakash’s MLC report said the assault took place after midnight, but that he was seen leaving Kejriwal’s house at around 11.30 pm on Monday. AAP spokesperson, Saurabh Bhardwaj alleged that he could have been bruised after the alleged incident to implicate others in the case. “This is why courts do not accept a delay in lodging an FIR and an MLC,” he said.
AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh alleged that police were meting out step-motherly treatment to them and that this was a conspiracy to destabilise the government. “Every day there is an effort to bring down the AAP government. The police were quick to act on the complaint of the Chief Secretary and arrested our MLAs but have not done anything in the FIR regarding the violence at the secretariat where a minister, Imran Hussain, and senior leader Ashish Khetan were manhandled. Instead, they have arrested an MLA who has filed a complaint against the CS,” he said.