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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

If Kejriwal is chargesheeted, Delhi may be headed for another round of govt vs bureaucrats standoff

Delhi’s bureaucrats say if CM Kejirwal is charged for the assault on chief secretary, it would be a ‘vindication of their stand’.

delhi Updated: Jun 29, 2018 08:58 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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 Sunday, June 16, 2018.
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 Sunday, June 16, 2018. (PTI)

The Delhi government may be staring at another standoff between its ministers and the bureaucrats if chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia are charged for criminal conspiracy in the alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash.

On Thursday, as reports on the two likely being chargesheeted emerged, bureaucrats at the Delhi Secretariat reportedly got into “private discussions” with their colleagues.

Some bureaucrats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they will decide the future course of action only if the charge sheet is actually filed in court. Others said it was a “vindication of their stand” on the matter.

The Aam Aadmi Party and its convener, Kejriwal, have been repeatedly denying the claims that Prakash was assaulted on February 19 midnight in the chief minister’s presence at his official residence.

“Since, the charge sheet is not yet filed, it would not be appropriate for us to comment,” the Delhi government’s IAS Association said. Government spokespersons, too, refused to comment on the issue.

However, officers that HT spoke to said, “If the news reports are true, we would like to confront the chief minister, which in any case has been our demand. The meeting with the CM is very important for us to feel safe at work.”

“A code of conduct for legislators, the way they speak to officers and their actions, should be drafted. We want to work hard for the betterment of Delhi, but with dignity and without the fear of being intimidated,” a senior bureaucrat said.

Another officer said the charge sheet was unlikely to make a difference. “There is no rule that a chargesheeted person cannot remain a lawmaker. Even convicted people continue as ministers. This case will go on for years and things will continue as usual, as it does in politics. If anyone goes to jail they would be out on bail and then resume office,” the officer said.

Prakash, in his complaint, had alleged that he was locked in a room at the CM’s residence and assaulted by MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal. Three days after the incident, AAP’s Uttam Nagar MLA Naresh Balyan sparked another controversy by making a public statement that “officers like Prakash, who put false cases, should be beaten up”.

Prakash’s assault and Balyan’s comment intensified the already-strained relationship of the bureaucracy with the Delhi government. From holding candlelight marches to staging five-minute silent protest every day since during lunch time, officers across all categories came together in solidarity with the chief secretary. Bureaucrats had also started allegedly skipping meetings called by ministers and only maintained written communication with the ministers.

Amid all this, social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam and transport minister Kailash Gahlot were asked by Kejriwal to hold back-channel talks with the bureaucracy so they could resume meetings. However, this did not lead to any breakthrough.

As the standoff slipped into its fourth month, Kejriwal, along with his three ministers, held a sit-in protest at lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal’s office and refused to leave the premises until Baijal intervened and called off the alleged strike by the bureaucrats.

Kejriwal left the L-G office on June 19 after nine days, only after the bureaucrats said they would attend meetings called by ministers. The chief minister also appealed the IAS officers to call off their strike assuring them of their safety. The IAS officers sought a meeting with the chief minister to discuss the issue. The meeting is yet to happen because Kejriwal has been in Bengaluru for treatment since and is likely to resume work on July 2.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 08:36 IST