Najeeb Jung resigned as Delhi’s lieutenant governor on Thursday, ending a three-and-half-year tenure marked by a bitter jurisdictional battle for the Capital with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
In a brief statement, Jung’s office said he had submitted his resignation to the government of India and would be returning to academics -- “his first love”.
Without citing any reason for the decision, Jung thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “his help and cooperation” and Kejriwal for “his association”. He also thanked the people of Delhi for “all their support and affection”.
The 65-year-old was locked in several public spats with the city government after the Aam Aadmi Party returned to power with a crushing majority last year. Jung and Kejriwal had showdowns over control of police, bureaucracy and clearance of files.
Sources in the ministry of home affairs (MHA) told HT that Jung got the resignation hand-delivered in a sealed envelope directly to the prime minister’s office (PMO) instead of the MHA to which the L-G reports. Sources said Jung also had two phone conversations with the PMO on Wednesday.
One home ministry source told HT Jung was tired of the prolonged feud with the city government. Another government source said the L-G was finding it “increasingly difficult” to live up to the NDA administration’s “expectations” in Delhi, where the BJP suffered a drubbing in the 2015 elections.
Minutes after news of the decision broke, Kejriwal tweeted: “Jung’s resignation is a surprise to me. My best wishes in all his future endeavours”.
Sh Jung's resignation is a surprise to me. My best wishes in all his future endeavours.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 22, 2016
His deputy, Manish Sisodia, said that despite several “bittersweet experiences, I can say that we have worked very well for Delhi with Jung” and wished Jung the best for the future.
तमाम खट्टे मीठे अनुभवों के बावजूद कह सकता हूँ कि नजीब जंग साहब के साथ हमने मिलकर दिल्ली के लिए बहुत अच्छा काम किया। भविष्य के लिए शुभकानाएं।— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) December 22, 2016
The resignation triggered intense speculation about Jung’s successor with former Union home secretary Anil Baijal -- who retired in 2006 as civil aviation secretary -- tipped as the front-runner.
Another name doing the rounds was BS Bassi, a former Delhi police commissioner who was locked in a bitter feud with Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party government until he retired this January.
Jung is a 1973-batch IAS officer who served in the Madhya Pradesh government and at several key posts at the Centre, including as joint secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. He was vice-chancellor of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University before he took charge as L-G in July, 2013.
Leader of opposition in the Delhi assembly and BJP leader Vijender Gupta described Jung as “a man who championed the Constitution of India, Union and Delhi government rules, despite heavy odds.”
The Congress, however, sought an explanation from the Centre, alleging that Jung was “unceremoniously removed”. In a hurriedly called press briefing, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken asked: “Was he (Jung) removed to bring someone who is close to RSS? Was it done considering the upcoming municipal polls?” The civic elections are due early next year.
The Kejriwal-led Delhi government was locked in several tussles with Jung over administrative jurisdiction and control of key sectors, including land and police. They also crossed swords over control of Delhi’s anti-corruption branch.
The fight eventually reached the courts and, on August 4 this year, the Delhi high court stamped the L-G as the administrative head of the city-state. The AAP government challenged the decision in Supreme Court, where the next hearing is on January 18.
(with inputs from Kumar Uttam)