Lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung’s exit is unlikely to end the power struggle between the national capital’s elected government and Raj Niwas because of which governance and public projects suffered.
His successor might have his task cut out as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stands firm on its position that the Centre, to whom the lieutenant governor reports, should divest more powers to the city’s government.
The Centre is in no mood to relent as well. “What do you expect us to do, roll out a red carpet for him (chief minister Arvind Kejriwal) when he abuses us daily?” asked a senior Union minister, underscoring the tense relationship between the two governments.
The new occupant of Raj Niwas can do little about the genesis of this conflict — the AAP’s aspiration to emerge as the BJP’s principal political opponent. Nor can he take a course that is independent of the NDA-led government at the Centre.
But he will have an opportunity to end what started as a jurisdictional tussle between the AAP government and Jung two years ago. The bickering brought governance in New Delhi to a standstill, with almost all bureaucratic transfers triggering a controversy and every major government initiative getting stonewalled.
He can restart pending projects such as the AAP government’s decision to buy six vacuum cleaners to clean streets, which are required to reduce the amount of road dust in the city struggling with choking air pollution. The machines couldn’t be bought because the lieutenant governor’s approval was pending.
Similarly, the government plans to come up with 1,000 mohalla clinics or neighbourhood healthcare centres by this yearend got stalled midway as Raj Niwas didn’t clear the files. The government managed to push through just over 100 clinics, which were part of a pilot project.
The education sector suffered too. A proposal to make guest teachers permanent in government-run schools never took off because of the power tussle. Raj Niwas returned the file with a few remarks. A couple of other people-friendly projects — a dedicated bus corridor and an app-based premium bus service — got stuck as well.
The new lieutenant governor might put the past acrimony behind and give a fresh look at projects. But much depends on whether the ruling AAP would like to segregate politics and governance.