Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal leaves L-G’s office, claims a ‘small victory’ as deadlock with IAS officers ends

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said IAS officers had attended meetings of the transport, environment and civil supplies ministries in the Delhi government and he expected more civil servants to resume work

delhi Updated: Jun 19, 2018 23:55 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Arvind Kejriwal,Arvind Kejriwal ends strike,AAP govt protest
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Satyendra Kumar Jain and Gopal Rai during a sit-in protest at Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s residence, in New Delhi on June 16.(PTI Photo)

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and labour minister Gopal Rai on Tuesday called off a sit-in protest at lieutenant governor Anil Baijal’s office on its ninth day after civil servants in the Delhi administration resumed attending meetings called by ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ministers in the city secretariat.

The end of the protest signals the resolution -- at least for now -- of a four-month-long deadlock between the city-state’s political executive and the bureaucracy. Until Monday, civil servants had been boycotting routine meetings called by ministers to protest against an alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash on February 19.

Signs of a thaw emerged after Kejriwal on Sunday publicly appealed to the bureaucracy to call off their “strike” with an assurance that they would be provided a safe work environment.

At around 6:35 pm, Kejriwal returned home, a little over two kilometres away from the L-G’s office, to be welcomed by AAP legislators and volunteers. The chief minister told the gathering at his residence that bureaucrats working in the Delhi the government were used by the L-G and the Centre to slow the city’s development and that his fight will continue until Delhi is granted full statehood.

Since Delhi is the capital of India, it shares jurisdictional space between the central and state governments. This means that the city has offices, establishments, cantonments and services that are under the Union government.

“We have nothing against IAS officers and 99% of them are good people. We have worked with them to improve governance in Delhi. They were just a front for interference by the Centre and the LG,” Kejriwal said.

The chief minister spent eight nights in the 10x15 feet visitors’ room in Baijal’s office after he, along with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, public works department minister Satyendar Jain and labour minister Rai went to meet the LG on June 11, but refused to leave the building.

They demanded intervention by the L-G to get officials to attend meetings called by ministers and approval of a scheme for the doorstep delivery of subsidised rations. Sisodia had to be rushed to a hospital on Monday after an increase in toxin levels in his blood. Jain was hospitalised on Sunday night.

Over an hour after Kejriwal returned home, the joint forum of Delhi government employees sent an open letter to the chief minister, saying that they were looking forward to his presence in the secretariat to discuss the safety of officials.

“We look forward to meeting you to discuss how to make our working environment safe and secure, not only in relation to physical assaults, but also for verbal assaults, threats, intimidation and attack on dignity and respect of officers including lady officers,” the letter read.

Kejriwal and Sisodia have been asking the L-G to call a meeting of all stakeholders to clear the differences because postings of senior officials and law and order issues fall under his jurisdiction. In a statement on Monday, Baijal, while welcoming Kejriwal’s appeal to the bureaucrats, asked him to “urgently” hold a meeting with officials at the secretariat.

This was the second statement from the L-G’s office in eight days, during which the protest by Kejriwal and his colleagues became a national issue with the chief ministers of four states attempting to meet the AAP leader and also appealing to the Prime Minister to intervene to end the deadlock.

The absence of any response from the L-G’s office throughout the week led the AAP to organise two protests. One held on Wednesday was a march from the CM’s residence to the L-G’s office and the second, on Sunday, was a bigger march from Mandi House in central Delhi to the PM’s residence. As many as 4,000 AAP supporters took part in the second march, according to the police, who stopped them near Parliament Street police station.

Four leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who were on a counter sit-in outside the chief minister’s office at the Delhi secretariat since Wednesday, also called off their protest and hunger strike on Tuesday. They had demanded that Kejriwal and the other ministers get back to work.

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First Published: Jun 19, 2018 18:29 IST