Drama in Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal, AAP leaders continue protest outside L-G’s office, Yashwant Sinha joins in
While chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday continued his three-day-old sit-in protest at L-G Anil Baijal’s office. The BJP staged a counter-protest by laying siege to Kejriwal’s office, demanding that the Delhi CM end his “dharna politics”.
Delhi’s administration has come to a grinding halt in the midst of a standoff between the government and the bureaucracy, and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is playing out at the lieutenant-governor’s office, the state secretariat and on the streets of the national Capital.
While chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday continued his three-day-old sit-in protest at L-G Anil Baijal’s office, AAP leaders staged a protest march from the CM’s residence to the L-G’s office for which they collected supporters from across Delhi’’s 70 assembly constituencies.
The BJP staged a counter-protest by laying siege to Kejriwal’s office at the secretariat, demanding that the chief minister and four Cabinet ministers end his “dharna politics”. At the same time, bureaucrats continued with their own three-month-long protest, in which they are slowing down work and avoiding meetings with ministers after chief secretary Anshu Prakash was allegedly assualted at Kejriwal’s residence in February.
In the middle of these dharnas and protests, which have left no time for administration, residents from several areas reported facing hardships, including up to eight-hour-long power outages in Uttam Nagar, Jungpura and Dwarka, and continued water shortage in outer Delhi over a dispute with Haryana. Officials in the CM office said that the weekly cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday had still not taken place. It was first moved to Wednesday and has now been postponed indefinitely. One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cabinet meetings hadn’t taken place for two weeks over some issue or the other.
Delhi has a total of seven ministers. Four of them -- Kejriwal, deputy CM Manish Sisodia, public works department (PWD) minister Satyendar Jain and development minister Gopal Rai -- have been camped at Raj Niwas since Monday.
The other two, transport minister Kailash Gehlot and social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, have also been spotted walking in and out of the waiting area at the L-G’s office.
Kejriwal justified the dharna on Wednesday by saying that the move was aimed at resolving the bureaucracy versus Delhi government impasse, which he said, was orchestrated by the L-G at the behest of the Centre.
“Aren’t IAS officers merely tools being used by (Narendra) Modi government to scuttle the good work done by Del govt (sic)? Is it possible for IAS officers to return to work without green signal from PMO?” Kejriwal tweeted.
Following the footsteps of home minister Satyendar Jain, who said on Tuesday that he was on an indefinite hunger strike until the L-G agreed to the government’s demands, Sisodia also announced he would go on a fast until Baijal declared the “strike” by bureaucrats illegal and took action against them. Their other demand is that the L-G clears the doorstep delivery of rations.
Baijal’ and his office declined to comment.
AAP leaders led a major protest march, which, according to the police was joined by about 1,500 supporters, and according to them more than 3,000. It was joined by former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. “If former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee were there, he would have directed the home minister to find a solution to the crisis, but the present dispensation is sleeping,” Sinha said to the protesting crowd.
Earlier in the day, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Manoj Jha had visited the CM’s house to show support to the party.
AAP leader Sanjay Singh said the party would lead a candle-light march on Thursday. He also told the L-G he would lead a protest to the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday if the matter is not resolved by then.
The BJP team protesting outside Kejriwal’s office included west Delhi MP Parvesh Verma, leader of the Opposition in the Delhi assembly Vijender Gupta, legislators Manjinder Singh Sirsa, Jagdish Pradhan and rebel AAP leader Kapil Mishra.
“We are not going to budge until the CM does not give assurance for adequate water supply. Our sit-in will continue. Kejriwal has overall failed the people, especially youth who are dejected due to poor conditions in schools, lack of colleges and sporting facilities. People of Delhi will ensure total rout of Kejriwal party both in 2019 and 2020 elections,” MP Parvesh Verma said.
The BJP leaders sat in Kejriwal’s waiting room -- and photos of them sitting on sofas surfaced on social media, just as Kejriwal and his colleagues‘ photos at the L-G’s office had surfaced on Tuesday.
With Lok Sabha elections to be held next year and assembly elections scheduled for 2020, experts raised concerns that Delhi would be at the centre of more such protests in the run up to the elections.
“What is happening is definitely not healthy when it comes to governance in Delhi. This is a perfect example of playing politics, not just for Kejriwal and AAP. But even the BJP is doing the same. In all this, Congress is completely sidelined. Delhi is seeing a huge prestige battle. Everyone from the bureaucrats to the AAP government, to the L-G, to the BJP – all are stuck on prestige. In all of this, Delhiites are the biggest victims,” said Sanjay Kumar, director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.