Amid the crisis in Delhi between the Lt Governor and Chief Minister over a delegation of powers, there are perhaps lessons to be learnt from those who held the same positions in the past.
The impasse between Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is not the first in Delhi, but previous disagreements between the two top executives have always been resolved through dialogue and, occasionally, the intervention of the President and the Home Ministry.
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In 2011, then CM Sheila Dikshit and Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna disagreed over the increase in property circle rates. For two weeks, the two sparred, through their bureaucracy, and in the end, Dikshit approached the Home Ministry and the President. “The MHA agreed with us and communicated the same to the Lt Governor and the circle rates were increased. It took all of two weeks and no public spat,” Dikshit said.
A year before that, the same leaders had locked horns over the Rao Tula Ram Marg flyover. While Dikshit wanted it to continue as a single carriageway, Khanna recommended building another. “The matter was again referred to the MHA, which agreed with the elected government,” a senior official said.
Almost a decade before the RTR incident, BJP finance minister Jagdish Mukhi had contested the powers of his department with the central government. “I was finance minister in name and actually an expenditure minister. As Delhi’s FM, I had no powers to allocate the budget or even present one and could only monitor spending. It took two years of negotiations with the Prime Minster’s Office, the Finance Ministry and Home Ministry. Finally, I was allowed to present a full budget. It only had to be intimated to the Union government,” Mukhi told The Indian Express.
A former Lt Governor, who did not wish to be named, said: “Whether a Lt Governor or a Governor, there is bound to be disagreement, but without dialogue nothing can be achieved. During my tenure, we never let it come to a situation even close to what is unfolding now. We disagreed, we debated and found a solution.”
Dikshit even decided to follow a strict regimen. “I have worked with a BJP-appointed Lt Governor and one appointed by the Congress. I made it a point to meet the Lt Governor once a week to ensure smooth functioning. Either I would convince the Lt Governor or he would convince me,” she said.
Another Lt Governor maintained that the elected government usually had the upper hand: “Though it is a constitutional post, I had to deal with an elected government and my office did not have an elected cabinet. If I had a difference of opinion, I would communicate the same and the issue was resolved with dialogue, something that is not visible in the present situation.”
Asked if the present fracas could be settled amicably, Dikshit said: “This is a very unfortunate situation, particularly since it stems from the appointment of an acting chief secretary for just 10 days. How can an issue like this bring the Delhi government to a standstill? Instead of writing letters to the media and each other, perhaps it is time they spoke across the table.”