Democracy in Delhi is dead. Long live democracy
Democracy is dead in Delhi. Monarchy is alive. The king has resurrected himself in the National Capital with the blessings of our dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Delhi has seen a new monarch in the last few months. Long ago, he had said, "I am the government like the French King Louis XIV who announced to the world - 'I am the state'."
His name is Najeeb Jung. He is the Lieutenant governor of Delhi.
In one of his responses to the Elected Delhi government this gentleman has said that he is the government. He had to retract his statement after an outrage.
But by then, his statement had shown us glimpses into the mind of the man who is the unelected representative of the Modi government.
Post the Delhi High Court judgement on the petition of jurisdiction of the Delhi government and the LG, Jung has assumed all powers and has made democratically-elected AAP government virtually immobile.
There is absolutely no space left for the AAP government to function. AAP has challenged the Delhi High Court's order in Supreme Court.
After the court order, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia had met Jung and requested him to not transfer two officers who were point persons for two flagship projects, related to the major upliftment of health services and of education - the two most neglected subjects in independent India.
The first - PWD secretary Sarvagya Srivastava who was doing a great job of spearheading the construction of new government classrooms and schools in Delhi. Approximately 8,000 classrooms have already been constructed and the rest are set to be finished by the 31st March next year.
The other were Tarun Seem, the man in charge of Delhi's Mohalla Clinics, an initiative to make health services world class and affordable to common man which was greatly appreciated by the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune in their columns.
But in the most autocratic manner, these officers were not only transferred despite the request of the elected government, but even the government was not informed about it. The elected government got to know about this development through the media.
Then the most bizarre order was given by the new monarch of Delhi which has snatched away all the powers of an elected government to appoint/transfer any officer including peons.
The order reads like this -
The peons and clerks will be transferred by the head of the departments, the officers of the rank of superintendent will be transferred by the Services department, officers to the rank of deputy secretary will be transferred by the chief secretary and officers of the DANICS and IAS cadre will be transferred by the LG himself. No consultation with the minister concerned will be entertained.
This has never happened in independent India with any elected government before. This virtually makes an elected government redundant and is nothing but a takeover by a bureaucratic despot.
After this order, officers refused to report to the ministers of their department. They don't come for meetings. Sisodia had to cancel three meetings on Wednesday as officers informed about their inability to attend with some excuse or the other.
LG has asked for all the files to be sent to his office ever since AAP government came into existence. He has formed a committee to investigate these files and even criminal culpability can be found!
Which other LG or governor will have guts to pass such orders without the backing of the Prime minister?! This is Modi at his best!
Since AAP and Arvind Kejriwal had shown the gumption to challenge Modi and refused to be cowed down - this is the price AAP has to pay.
But this is not the first time the LG had behaved in this fashion. AAP government took charge in the month of February 2015.
The first jolt AAP government received was in March when Jung did not let CM appoint his interim chief secretary for eleven days and Shakuntala Gamlin was forced on the elected CM despite serious objections being raised by about the questionable behaviour of the officer concerned.
AAP had come to power on the plank of Zero Tolerance to Corruption. AAP government launched a helpline so that people could contact and report the matters of corruption in the government departments.
32,489 calls were made in first 100 hours, 70 people handed over sufficient proofs and those cases were sent to Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) who arrested 17 senior officials in no time. Most of the cases were related to the Delhi police.
Suddenly, one fine morning of 8 June 2015, ACB was taken over by the LG by sending in para-military forces and a new chief Mukesh Meena was appointed to overlook those who had serious charges of corruption against them.
It was said that ACB is a wing of police and police falls under the domain of the Central government.
The same ACB was reporting to the democratically-elected government of Delhi since its inception.
The same ACB used to report to the AAP government in its earlier avatar in 2013-2014 and under the orders of elected AAP government, ACB had lodged an FIR against Reliance Chief Mukesh Ambani and two central ministers. This order was not questioned on this ground even in court.
But this was not enough.
On 21 May 2015, the Centre issued an order stripping Delhi government of all the powers of appointment, transfers or promotion of its officers. To rub salt on the wound, the Home Ministry started removing and transferring officers without consulting and informing the state government.
All the good officers who were given critical assignments were removed bit by bit. This was an attempt to derail the AAP government and not let it function to serve the people of Delhi.
On another front, the attempt was made to paralyse the Assembly too. 23 Bills including Bills of Appropriation which were passed by the Delhi Assembly were sent to the Home Ministry for ascent but the Centre did not react to them.
They kept lying for more than six months to a year. Few of these Bills were related to education and minimum wages. Even welfare measures for the downtrodden, like regularising the employment of more than 20,000 temporary teachers, engaging Akshaya Patra for mid-day-meal in Delhi government schools for better food to school children, were turned down by the LG.
When the AAP government raised the land circle rate of farmers from 56 lacs/acre to 3 crore to bring parity with the market rate, even that was withheld by LG.
The list is endless. I am not even talking about how AAP MLAs were arrested on fake charges and how the CM's office was raided by CBI and the Principal Secretary was arrested. This whole exercise raises certain fundamental questions -
- Is it not against the spirit of the Constitution which is based on the will of the people, elected government and representatives are given the upper hand in the functioning of the democracy and administration over the unelected ones?
- What is the point of having an assembly and elected government if it has to dance to the tunes of an unelected appointee?
- If an unelected bureaucrat has to run the government then why have elections in the first place?
- And what will happen to the promise made by the party which had been voted in by the people of Delhi expecting that the party in government will implement its manifesto?
These are simple questions. We all know the answers.
The bigger question is how can the biggest democracy in the world let this happen in the National Capital?
Why is the civil society mute?
I can understand that AAP is paying the price for challenging the entire establishment. I am reminded of Socrates who was jailed and poisoned for challenging the establishment but that was ancient times.
We live in a democracy. And if democracy lets it happen then it is indicative of far serious and more dangerous times in the future.
The writer is a spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen