After months of sparring by means of official notifications, rounds of litigation, and orders of transfer and dismissal of various officers, the seemingly endless battle for the control of Delhi between the Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP-led Central government has taken an ugly turn with the extraordinary arrest of Jitender Singh Tomar. The Delhi Law Minister, who allegedly holds two fake educational degrees, resigned hours after a court sent him to police custody. It must be said that the AAP has handled the issue of Mr. Tomar’s qualifications with a complete lack of political nous. This has been the subject matter of a case in the Delhi High Court after the issue came up in February, and the party could have either asked the Minister to step down till he was cleared of the charges, or simply made his degree diplomas public on its website. It might be said that the AAP deserves sympathy in its ongoing face-off with a Goliath of a Centre, but lapses such as these are but another reminder that it could no longer really claim to be a party with a difference. The Delhi Police have gone strictly by the letter of the law in ordering the arrest. However, the manner in which they have gone about the process has left no one in doubt that it has essentially been a show of strength against a political party that is determined to put an end to corruption. To arrest Mr. Tomar the Delhi Police sent a posse of 40 officers, and then deployed heavy security around the police station where he was being held. The police worked late into the night to file a first information report, got it signed by Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung around midnight, and then appeared at Mr. Tomar’s residence around 6 a.m. to make the arrest. The sudden drive and determination to arrest on the basis of charges of forgery a person who is hardly likely to go absconding, made it seem politically motivated.
The governmental tussle over Delhi has meanwhile reached its zenith, and one battleground is the State’s Anti-Corruption Branch. The Lt. Governor recently created a senior post in the ACB so that he could post an officer of his choice who, incidentally, was conducting the investigations when a farmer committed suicide at the venue of an AAP rally. The AAP cried foul and ordered him sent back. That order was cancelled by the Lt. Governor. In retaliation, the AAP transferred out the official who had appointed him. All of this points to just another bizarre turn to a bizarre situation where the two governments just seem to be itching for a fight. The people of Delhi, interminably caught in the crossfire, may be the only real losers.
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