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Delhi Lieutenant Governor’s Covid meet sparks fresh row with state govt

Arvind Kejriwal asks LG to avoid direct meetings with officials of the Delhi government, says such interactions are against the Constitution and against an SC order
By Sweta Goswami, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 05, 2021 04:14 AM IST
LG Anil Baijal and CM Arvind Kejriwal at the Vidhan Sabha earlier this year. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)(HT_PRINT)

A review meeting convened by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Wednesday regarding the Covid-19 situation in Delhi has led to a fresh conflict between the elected government in Delhi and the Raj Bhavan, with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal saying the LG holding parallel meetings without informing the state government is “against the Constitution”.

The LG on Wednesday tweeted about a Covid-19 review meeting with chief secretary Vijay Dev, additional chief secretary (home and health) Bhupinder S Bhalla, divisional commissioner Sanjiv Khirwar, Delhi Metro chief Mangu Singh and other senior officials, and the directions issued to the officials.

Kejriwal responded to the LG’s tweet, and requested him to avoid direct meetings with officials of the Delhi government.

“It is against the Constitution and the Supreme Court Constitution bench judgment to hold such parallel meetings behind the back of the elected government. We are a democracy. People have elected a council of ministers. If you have any questions, please ask your ministers. Avoid holding direct meetings with officers. Let’s respect democracy, sir,” the CM tweeted.

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Officials in the CM’s office said no ministers were asked to attend the meeting.

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia questioned the LG’s authority to convene such a meeting.

“Despite the Constitution and Supreme Court judgment, and by cornering the elected government, what kind of Covid-19 management is happening here? The LG nowhere has the right to call officers separately behind the chief minister’s back. Then in what capacity and with what objective was this meeting called?”Sisodia tweeted.

The LG’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

During the meeting, the LG expressed concerns over reported violation of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour in the Delhi Metro and other public transport. Accordingly, the divisional commissioner, Delhi Police and MD, DMRC were advised to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are strictly enforced, the LG office said.

In a letter to Baijal on July 17, Sisodia alleged that over the past three months, the LG has been calling bureaucrats to his office, issuing directions and “putting pressure” on them to implement his orders. He termed it as a “murder of democracy” and “humbly requested” Baijal to desist from such “activities”. “Under the Constitution, the Delhi LG can take decisions only on police, land and public order,” Sisodia added.

“Over the last few months, you have been calling prominent officials of the Delhi government to your office and issuing directions related to work of their departments. I have also come to know that you are also issuing directions to the officials on subjects that come under the purview of the elected government, without even keeping the ministers in the loop, and later officials of the L-G secretariat are pressuring the bureaucrats to implement such orders,” Sisodia said.

On July 22, Baijal wrote back to Sisodia that he should not have made the letter public, and rather taken up concerns over administrative issues over a personal discussion. The LG shared details of meetings held by his office in the past three months – which involved issues such as Covid-19 management, implementation of public welfare schemes such as ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’, water supply and housing – adding that Sisodia’s letter did not specify any instance of “obstruction”, and accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of looking at his efforts through a “biased lens”.

He further said that some of the meetings with the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana regarding shortage of water supply in Delhi were chaired on Kejriwal’s request.

“Several complicated administrative issues involve multiple departments and it is needless to say that on matters of public importance the opinion of the elected government should be in favour of cooperation and harmony… It is unfortunate that my efforts with clean intent towards public welfare were seen through a biased lens and misinterpreted. In the end, I want to repeat that I shall continue fulfilling my constitutional responsibilities aimed at serving the people of Delhi,” said Baijal’s letter to Sisodia, written in Hindi.

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