The ungainly tug of war between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor’s office goes on. The confrontation escalates daily, making a reconciliation look almost impossible. In the past few weeks, the disagreement over which office has control over the appointment and transfer of civil servants has only sharpened. Bureaucrats are in a bind, with the lieutenant governor cancelling and opposing the chief minister’s directives and orders. It started with the two men disagreeing over which official would function as acting chief secretary for the 10 days the CS was on leave. Since then, the fingerpointing and wrangling has continued over the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and over investigations into an alleged scam. But as the LG and the CM fiercely try to stare each other down, throwing the law and the statute book at each other, one thing has become clearer: while the Constitution and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, provide an administrative role for the LG in matters concerning public order, land and police, Najeeb Jung is laying himself open to the charge of an attempted power grab at the Centre’s behest. Jung is interfering with matters of governance that should be rightfully and legitimately addressed by the elected government.
The arrest of former Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar by Delhi Police, which functions under the Union home ministry, is the spark that has most recently rekindled the conflagration. Admittedly, the AAP should have asked Tomar to resign when questions were first raised about the authenticity of the law minister’s certificates. However, the manner in which Delhi Police took Tomar into custody while the case is still in court raises serious questions. At the very least, he should have been served a notice before his arrest. The allegation of forgery is serious, but an arrest midway into an investigation is generally carried out if there is credible suspicion that the accused could tamper with the evidence. By all accounts, due process appears to have been subverted in this case, in spirit if not in fact.
Predictably, the battles have taken a toll. The Centre, state government and LG should be concerned about the wobbly state of municipal governance. Cash-strained municipal corporations haven’t paid employees. There is a virtual collapse of sanitation systems in parts of the city. The rulers of Delhi, busy with their power games, seem immune to the stink.