Amid cops, camera, Kejriwal attends meet with chief secretary
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and chief secretary Anshu Prakash came face-to-face for the first time on Tuesday, a week after the top bureaucrat was allegedly assaulted by Aam Aadmi Party MLAs at the CM’s house.
The two met for a weekly cabinet meeting at the Delhi secretariat where the budget session’s dates were decided. But before attending the meeting, Prakash sent a letter to the CM, urging him to ensure “proper decorum” at the meeting and that the “dignity of officers” is protected.
Ahead of the crucial meeting, Kejriwal and his cabinet witnessed a strong protest by senior bureaucrats. Apart from the three bureaucrats, principal secretaries of urban development, and transport and power silently stood in the arcade of the secretariat wearing black bands against the alleged assault on Prakash.
Cabinet meetings happen once every week but Tuesday’s one was different. Two cameras were placed on either side of the cabinet room to record the discussions, while over a dozen police personnel stood alert outside.
As chief secretary Prakash, finance secretary SN Sahai and GAD secretary MK Parida arrived in the room, Kejriwal is believed to have casually told them that the decision to record the meeting was to bring “greater transparency” in the government and to avoid any “false allegations”. Two of the officers wore black bands to the meeting as a mark of protest.
The meet was skipped by VK Jain, advisor to Kejriwal who went on a week-long medical leave. Last week, Jain had told police that he saw MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Jarwal surrounding Prakash and assaulting him.
“The meeting went on smoothly with everyone talking only about work – the budget and the public distribution system. The CM avoided eye contact with the bureaucrats, but deputy CM Manish Sisodia spoke freely about the agenda,” said an official who attended the meeting.
After the meeting, GAD secretary MK Parida wrote to Kejriwal, saying the recording should be kept with the department for security reasons. “The convention of cabinet meetings is that they are confidential. We are not against any recording, but its safety needs to be ensured. I wrote the letter after discussing it with the chief secretary,” Parida said.
The chief secretary in his letter to Kejriwal said he would attend it to discuss important budget matters, assuming the chief minister ensures “no physical attack and verbal assault” on officers attending the meeting.
“A meeting of the Council of Ministers has been scheduled (today) to discuss important matters of finalisation of dates for the Budget Session of the Delhi Legislative Assembly,” Prakash said in his letter.
“Since finalising the dates of the budget session and passing of the budget are important for the functioning of government, I along with officers concerned, will be attending the meeting,” he said.
Calling the cabinet meeting an “exception”, a joint forum of Delhi government employees said that they would continue boycotting meetings with ministers and maintain only written communication.
“Delhi government employees will continue to work through formal written means of communication and continue their protest in the form of a five-minute silence at 1.30 pm during lunch time in all government offices till a specific written and public apology is tendered by the chief minister and the deputy chief minister,” Pankaj Kumar, a member of the forum, said at a press meet.