The New Year resolution Delhiites would want Modi and Kejriwal to make
If the expectations of the local BJP unit were to weigh in on the choice of Jung’s successor, Delhi may end up with an administrator and a political scenario that would further escalate the turf war.columns Updated: Jan 07, 2017 13:18 IST
The surprise decision of Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to resign from his job has triggered as much hope as anxiety among the people of Delhi. Some see it as the end of the two-year-long bitter turf war between the BJP-led government at the Centre and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that made the governance of the city-state its biggest casualty. Others worry about what will happen if Jung’s successor turns out to be more hawkish.
What happens hereafter depends much on the reasons that guided Jung to quit. There are many theories doing the rounds. One explanation is that Jung got tired of doing the bidding for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in its proxy war against the Aam Aadmi Party that stormed to power in Delhi with a popular mandate in February 2015. In the past two years, few weeks have passed without a showdown between the offices of the LG and the chief minister. From the appointment of bureaucrats in the Delhi government to tackling civic issues such as clearing garbage and fighting a deadly outbreak of dengue and chikungunya this past autumn, they have sparred over almost everything. Although the rule book often sided with Jung, the spats had perhaps become onerous for the 65-year-old bureaucrat, who said he was quitting to spend more time with his family.
People in the know of things say Jung had indicated his intent six months ago, but was asked to stay. Some believe the Supreme Court’s recent observation that the “state government should have autonomy to function” could have finally prompted him to call it a day.
The top court is hearing an appeal against a high court ruling that had empowered Jung to declare decisions taken by the AAP government without due consultations with the LG null and void.
The Jung-Kejriwal bickering was rooted in the unique partial statehood status of Delhi under which authority to govern the national capital is split between the Centre and the elected state government, and hence subject to conflicting interpretations. In the past, these were resolved through dialogue and rarely affected the administration of Delhi. But in the last two years such conflicts have gone too far and created a situation where Delhi has begun to suffer. And in all of this, Jung has come out appearing to be the villain.
The other theory behind his resignation is that while Jung did everything that the Centre wanted him to do to undermine the AAP government, the BJP couldn’t gain much politically. Many leaders in the BJP’s Delhi unit agree that people’s perception continues to favour Kejriwal and his narrative of political victimisation.
They also complain about lack of access to Jung and would like to see a person more amenable to their interests occupy the LG’s office, especially at a time when Delhi is getting ready for crucial municipal elections. To begin with, Jung was never their man. He took up the job in 2013 when the UPA was in power; Modi continued with him because he was found malleable.
If the expectations of the local BJP unit were to weigh in on the choice of Jung’s successor, Delhi may end up with an administrator and a political scenario that would further escalate the turf war.
We hope that will not be case. That Jung’s exit will be taken as an opportunity to build bridges, to dispel mistrust between the governments at the Centre and the state, to put development back on the agenda.
It is time both sides began to reconcile. Making that a resolution for the New Year would serve both Modi and Kejriwal well. They owe it to the people of Delhi.