As the sit-in by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal continued on the seventh day on Sunday, the tug of war between the AAP dispensation and the Lieutenant Governor refused to die down with IAS officers coming out in public alleging that they have been “targeted and victimised” for political gains.
As the deadlock continues, chief ministers of four-non-BJP ruled states urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and solve the crisis. Later in the day, Kejriwal tried to salvage the situation by sending out an “assurance of safety” to the officers whom he called part of his families.
The political slugfest between parties continued with the AAP upping the ante and organizing a massive march to the prime minister’s residence. The march was, however, stopped by the police midway.
While the Congress defended its decision to not join other opposition parties in supporting Kejriwal over his standoff with the Delhi L-G, calling the AAP leader’s “dharna in an air-conditioned room” a “drama”, the BJP, the major opposition party in the Delhi Assembly, continued its bashing of AAP and Kejriwal, saying he resorted to a “political stunt” in a bid to form an “anti-BJP, anti-Narendra Modi” front in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The Delhi IAS association asked the Delhi government not to use its officers for “political gains” and rebutted its claim that they were on strike. It had also said that the AAP dispensation needed to “change its attitude” amid Kejriwal’s standoff with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. Revenue Secretary Manisha Saxena, along with Transport Commissioner Varsha Joshi, South Delhi District Magistrate Amjad Tak and Directorate of Information and Publicity Secretary Jaydev Sarangi held a press conference and said that the IAS officers in Delhi were “working with utmost sincerity and dedication”.
Countering Kejriwal’s allegations, Saxena, a senior member of IAS AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories) Association, said that officers were not working at the behest of anyone. “We are answerable only to the law and the Constitution,” Saxena said, adding that they had been targeted and victimised. “We would like to inform that we are not on strike,” she said.
In response to the IAS association, Kejriwal later in the night assured them that he would ensure their safety saying they were part of his family, and sought to break the four- month-long impasse between the AAP dispensation and the officers over an alleged assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash. “The officers are part of my family. I would urge them to stop their boycott of elected government, return to work now and start attending all meetings of Ministers, respond to their calls and messages and join them for field inspections,” Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.
Spurred by the participation of CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and several Left workers, the AAP had managed to stage a notable protest march but failed to reach its avowed destination — 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, the prime minister’s residence. Amid the ongoing sit-in by party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his two cabinet colleagues at the lieutenant governor’s office, the AAP leaders and workers began the march from Mandi House.
Five prime metro stations –Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Janpath– in the heart of Delhi were closed in view of the march. Earlier in the day, Chief ministers of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to intervene for solving the tussle between the L-G and the AAP government in Delhi, terming it a “constitutional crisis”.
On the sidelines of the NITI Aayog governing council meeting, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Andhra Pradesh’s N Chandrababu Naidu, Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, and Karnataka’s H D Kumaraswamy requested Modi to resolve the crisis so the “federal structure of the Constitution is maintained”. “I along with the Hon’ble CMs of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have requested Hon’ble PM today to resolve the problems of Delhi government immediately (sic),” Banerjee tweeted after meeting Modi.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari had said that it was “unfortunate” that the chief ministers of four states allowed themselves to be a part of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo’s “drama”. Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta, who is sitting on an indefinite hunger strike at the chief minister’s office at the Delhi Secretariat, wrote an “open letter” to Kejriwal, asking him to look beyond “political interests” and resume work, along with his ministers.
“The (press) conference held by the chief ministers of four states in your favour ends all doubts of your dharna being nothing more than a political stunt to rally together an anti-BJP, anti-Modi front before the elections next year,” Gupta wrote in the letter.