With a setback to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s dream of ‘statehood for Delhi’ following the High Court’s verdict on Thursday holding the Lieutenant Governor as the administrative head, the only voice that the Aam Aadmi Party leaders, workers and volunteers wanted to hear was that of Kejriwal. Away for a 10-day vipasana session in upper Dharamshala, Kejriwal is said to have no access to television, newspapers, internet and reportedly cannot even interact with fellow participants.
In his absence, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia held fort, sharply reacting to the judgment and announcing that the Delhi government would challenge the verdict in Supreme Court – a standard comment without escalating the tone of the debate, something that Kejriwal was sure to do and is expected to do once he comes back from his retreat. His party colleagues pointed out finer points of law, put up a strong defense of the state government’s demand for greater autonomy and insisted it was a ‘jolt’ not to the AAP government but to the ‘people of Delhi’ and ‘democracy’.
Kejriwal in all likelihood would have drawn up all the old instances of trouble with the LG and Center, refreshing public memory and reiterated LG Najeeb Jung’s ‘bias’ against the Delhi government owing to his ‘proximity’ to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – allegations that he has repeatedly made but pertinent on this day in the light of the High Court judgment. Kejriwal would have made a brand new case for ‘statehood’, citing the recent incidents of rape in the Capital and unbridled corruption in several government agencies, including the transport department where the state government had proposed an inquiry into the CNG fitness scam.
The High Court verdict, however, will change little for the Delhi government that is set to function as it was. It gives the AAP government the opportunity to continue to be at loggerheads with the Centre and LG and shifting blame for chinks in the system. The demand for greater autonomy for the Delhi government is not new and has been made by previous governments. But that ‘full statehood’ is a bit too much to ask for is something that the AAP has always been aware of.
As the party would have you believe, there was no communication with Kejriwal on the big development of the day, although some sources said that it is unlikely that the CM would not be apprised of such an issue. With some of his aides signing up for the same vipasana session, Kejriwal might find some solid strategies on his way back to work.