By Sushil Kutty
The Lt. Governor, Delhi, VK Saxena, acts as if he’s a power unto himself. But everybody knows his loyalty to the Union Ministry of Home is absolute. The Delhi Government is at the mercy of frequent interventions, call them interferences. And if Delhi is suffering, it is because of this unwavering subservience to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the relentless assaults on federalism. If left unchecked, the Lt. Governor’s actions will be the death of governance, if it isn’t already.
The list of the Lt. Governor messing up legitimate situations by poking his nose into affairs that do not fall in his domain is long, but the latest is in a class of its own–the election of the Delhi Mayor, and the Deputy Mayor, which descended into chaos and senseless violence thanks to this proxy of the Centre, the Lt. Governor, much to the disgust of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Things went completely out of hand, and the MCD House had to be adjourned following differences over administration of oath to 10 nominated members, with a sleight of House rules engineered to benefit the BJP’s Mayor, and Deputy Mayor, candidates.
Thereafter, CM Kejriwal wrote a letter to Saxena stating that Article 243R of the Constitution prevented nominated members from taking part in MCD elections. And, if allowed to go through, as the BJP members wanted, the administration of the oath to the 10 nominated members would have helped the BJP in getting their mayor and deputy mayor candidates elected.
Following the nefarious attempts to gain backdoor control of the MCD House, Kejriwal wrote the 3-page letter, pointing out to Saxena previous “incidents” of flagrant flouting of MCD rules by bypassing the Delhi government. Among them the foisting of favoured names on the Haj Committee, and refusing to nominate the senior-most member as the presiding officer.
Directions from the Lt. Governor of Delhi have a history of being “bizarre” forcing “administration officers” to silently protest even as they were scared of the consequences. This is because the Lt. Governor is not beyond using his post to “control the bureaucracy through services”, and not shy of misusing his powers.
In the latest case of misuse of power, the MCD House had to be adjourned and the election of Mayor and Deputy Mayor put on hold. The BJP insisted that the nominated members should get precedence and take the oath before the elected members so that they could vote first.
Basically it is a power tussle. The Centre versus the Delhi Government. For more than eight years, Chief Minister Kejriwal has had a hostile Lt. Governor to deal with, one Lt. Guv after another. There was Najeeb Jung, then Anil Baijal, and now VK Saxena, who happens to be the most belligerent.
The Delhi Lt. Governor mandate under the Modi Government appears to make life miserable for Kejriwal and his Council of Ministers. The Lt. Guv of Delhi revels in undermining the Kejriwal government. The Lt. Guv’s jurisdiction appears to be extremely flexible.
Lt. Governor Saxena has often suspended officers and bypassed the Delhi government. This despite the Constitution of India demarcating separate powers for the elected government and the Lt. Governor. Leaving out police, public order and land, the elected AAP government has control of concurrent and State lists.
But the Lt. Governor has been flagrantly flouting the rules and directly issuing orders regardless of whether the subject fell under his jurisdiction or not, if he had the powers or not. Saxena bypasses the Council of Ministers and deals directly with the Chief Secretary.
Kejriwal alleged in his letter to the Lt. Governor that the Chief Secretary was no less a power unto himself and like the Lt. Guv the Chief Secretary also completely bypassed the elected government.
Apparently, the powers enjoyed by the Lt. Governor are skewed. Saxena can transfer and suspend any officer of the Delhi government. This places the officers completely under the control of the Centre; their present status and their future standing. They are easily intimidated. They are sheep to the Centre’s wolf.
The Lt. Governor has been targeting the Delhi government relentlessly with probes and inquiries; amidst charges of corruption against individual ministers. Meddling is the Centre’s most favourite word. Second only to the term ‘Operation Lotus’, which is what the central agencies’ are up to with their actions against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
The BJP after losing the Delhi MCD to the AAP after 15 years of holding on to power cannot stomach the loss of power at grassroots level. Now, the world’s largest party wants a backdoor entry, its chosen avenue whenever the electors deny them the front-door. Bottom-line: Federalism to the Modi government is just a word, useless, and worthless, what Shashi Tharoor calls ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’. (IPA Service)