After a brief respite, hostilities between Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have resumed. The issue this time is the appointment of the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women. Two days after the Aam Aadmi Party government appointed Swati Maliwal, the Lieutenant Governor annulled the appointment, saying it had not been “properly processed”. In a letter to the Chief Minister, he also made the ludicrous claim that he was “the government of Delhi”. Mr. Jung’s latest exercise in overreach comes more than a month after he and Mr. Kejriwal met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and promised to resolve the issues between them amicably. It was then thought that both sides had realised that their game of one-upmanship was damaging the images of both, and affecting the interests of the people of Delhi. Yet, it seems little has changed. By continuing to interfere with the day-to-day affairs of the Delhi government in a brazen manner, Mr. Jung is disrespecting the massive mandate with which the people of Delhi returned the AAP to power; neither is he helping to dispel the notion that he is a puppet acting at the behest of the Central government.
There is now a broader context to the whole confrontation. Soon after taking office, Ms. Maliwal sought an appointment with the Lt. Governor to discuss a brutal incident in Delhi in which a 19-year-old girl was stabbed to death by two youths. Following that incident, the AAP has, by means of a series of emotive radio and television advertisements, ramped up its demand for more control over the Delhi Police. Ms. Maliwal’s appointment to a body that was previously seen as ineffectual is also part of a wider narrative in which the AAP is battling to ensure that the security of women in the national capital is taken more seriously than at present. By blocking the move on bureaucratic grounds, Mr. Jung, and the Union Home Ministry by extension, appear in extremely bad light. Thanks to the AAP’s continuous campaigning on the issue, and the associated drama of their now-regular tussles with the Lieutenant Governor, the issue of full statehood for Delhi has become an important topic of debate. Most Delhi-ites want the issue resolved, if only so that they can have an effective government again, rather than one that is forced to switch to agitation mode periodically. Chief Ministers and Lieutenant Governors here have worked together amicably earlier within the limitations of their positions, but given the current lack of cooperation on both sides it appears that the only way out of the impasse is a proper consideration of the demand for full statehood for Delhi, or a clearer interpretation of the rules that define power-sharing between the state administration and the Central government.
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