Delhi govt returns to work, then Kejriwal goes on 10-day leave after sit-in protest
Around 20 meetings were held at the Delhi Secretariat on Wednesday. However, the government announced that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal would be in Bengaluru for 10 days, starting tomorrow, to undergo naturopathy treatment.
Ministers and civil servants of the Delhi government held at least 20 meetings in different groups at the Secretariat on Wednesday as the national capital’s administration resumed functioning as usual after a four-month stand-off was resolved the previous day.
Unease persisted in the bureaucracy as the government announced that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will go on 10 days’ leave, throwing into uncertainty a meeting civil servants had sought with him after avoiding interaction with ministers due to “safety concerns” that stemmed from an alleged attack on chief secretary Anshu Prakash by ruling Aam Aadmi Party legislators on February 19.
The work boycott had triggered an unprecedented nine-day sit-in protest by the chief minister and some of his cabinet colleagues at the office of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, which ended on Tuesday. Kejriwal, along with his deputy Manish Sisodia, labour minister Gopal Rai and public works department minister Satyendar Jain, had on June 11 gone to meet Baijal but did not leave the office, pressing the LG to intervene and get the bureaucrats to call off the boycott. The impasse ended this week after Kejriwal made fresh appeals to the officials. But the bureaucrats asked him for a meeting to complete the rapprochement.
“Uncertainty looms over our meeting with the chief minister as he will be gone for 10 days,” said the association of AGMUT cadre IAS officers.
“We we have heard that he is unwell, which is understandable. But, some clarity on when the meeting will be held would make officers feel they are cared for by the CM and ministers. Otherwise, the assurance given by him sounds hollow with him gone,” it added.
According to a spokesperson, Kejriwal will attend a cabinet meeting on Thursday before heading to Bengaluru for naturopathy treatment. On Wednesday, Kejriwal did not come to office as he suffered from fever and high blood sugar, which deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said was a consequence of the sit-in at the visitors’ room of the L-G’s office. “CM’s blood sugar level is high at 400. He was scheduled to go to Bengaluru two days after meeting the L-G on June 11. But that could not happen,” Sisodia said. Kejriwal has diabetes.
Other ministers, however, held a number of meetings. They included the education, power, home, urban development, industries, environment and labour departments, apart from the PWD.
Officers Hindustan Times spoke to said they hope Kejriwal would call the meeting before he leaves on Thursday evening.
“The meeting with the CM was the condition on which the impasse ended. It should have been held today. We understand that his health might not be in good condition, but at least giving us the date and time would have served the purpose,” a bureaucrat said on condition of anonymity.
When asked about the issue, Sisodia did not give a clear answer. He only said the meeting “will be held”.
In its second statement during Kejriwal’s protest, the L-G office on Tuesday had welcomed the chief minister’s appeal to civil servants, but had also asked him to “urgently” hold a meeting with them at the Secretariat. Kejriwal and his team, however, have been demanding that Baijal convene the meeting as the services department, which is responsible for transfers of bureaucrats, is under him.
Despite attending meetings with ministers, the bureaucrats on Wednesday continued to observe their five-minute silence at government offices as a mark of protest against the alleged assault on chief secretary Prakash.
“The atmosphere at the meetings, which I have attended today (Wednesday), was different from earlier. It was congenial and positive,” another senior bureaucrat said.
Kejriwal’s decision to go on leave was criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Vijender Gupta who alleged that the chief minister ended his “dharna” only to proceed for “another holiday” from work.
“Delhiites were expecting that their CM will now get down to business of solving their burning problems. But, in place of compensating for the lost time, he has gone on leave. People of Delhi are feeling cheated,” Gupta said.