How Delhi’s Lieutenant Governors, chief ministers managed love-hate relationship so far

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The equation between the new entrant in the Lieutenant Governor’s office, V K Saxena, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, simmering for days, has suddenly hit a new low. VK Saxena, who came to office in May, recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into a much-hyped excise policy of the capital, which came into existence in November last year. The matter may seem just related to a corruption charge about a policy, but the controversial relationship between the two topmost authorities in the capital is deep-rooted.

The love-hate relationship between Delhi’s elected Chief Minister and nominated Lieutenant Governor came to the fore after Kejriwal took charge in 2013. However, experts claim that this is inbuilt into the governance model of Delhi, which came into existence in the current form in the year 1993. Delhi has seen three Lieutenant Governors since Arvind Kejriwal became the Chief Minister and, leaving a few phases, the relationship between both the offices remained on the rocks for most of their tenures. The current spat with LG is just the tip of the iceberg.

Arvind Kejriwal’s equation with different LGs came into the limelight, thanks to the vocal tussle from both sides. India Today tries to decipher the complex relationship between different CMs and LGs who have remained in power since 1993. This article will try to describe the complex relationship between the two offices.

TUSSLE BEWTEEN LG SAXENA AND CM KEJRIWAL

When the new LG Vinay Kumar Saxena took oath on May 26, he immediately announced that he would not act just as the constitutional head of Delhi but act as a Local Guardian (LG) of the national capital. The same day he started his visits to check the work done on the development projects. It was amply clear from the onset that he would be a working LG and not merely in the office to become a rubber stamp.

The first tussle with the Arvind Kejriwal government started in June itself when Saxena called senior officials from the Delhi Jal Board. Immediately after this, the new LG ordered an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) inquiry into the construction of hospitals. This didn’t go well with the elected government and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia shot a letter and told LG that he does not have the right to call officers who directly come under the elected government.

Immediately, Saxena also sent his reply to CM Kejriwal writing that he is aware of his responsibilities and CM should instruct his ministers to avoid such conflicts.

ALSO READ| Arvind Kejriwal says Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung is fond of him, shares ‘good equation’

In July, several AAP leaders started targeting the LG on issues, ranging from the deteriorating Law and order situation in the capital to non-performance by the MCD. When V K Saxena instructed MCD officials to improve property tax collection, senior AAP leaders alleged that LG is trying to portray the residents of Delhi as “tax thieves.”

Meanwhile, the Delhi government sent a proposal to Saxena to approve his visit to participate in a conference attended by leaders from different cities across the world.

Saxena refused to grant the permission, citing the conference is for the mayors and not for the chief minister. The proposal to visit Singapore was rejected on Thursday, while the recommendation for a CBI inquiry into the liquor policy came on Friday.

KEJRIWAL v/s NAJEEB JUNG

Arvind Kejriwal remained in ‘jung’ with the LG during his initial days at the office.

It all started with Najeeb Jung, a former IAS officer who was in power when Arvind Kejriwal became the CM for the first time in the year 2013 for 49 days. At that time, the government was running with the outside support of Congress.

Kejriwal tried to push the Janlokpal Bill inside the Delhi assembly without the prior approval of the central government and then LG Jung didn’t allow the same, citing constitutional provisions. Kejriwal resigned on the issue on February 14, 2013. Those 49 days will also be remembered for a Dharna near Rail Bhawan when Delhi CM categorically said that “I am an anarchist”, defying police orders.

The Dharna started on January 20 and it was LG Najeeb Jung who broke the ice with Kejriwal when he offered Parathas by visiting the protest site and ignoring the protocol. For one year after that, there was President rule in the capital.

In February 2015, AAP won Delhi with a thumping majority. Just after a month of taking charge as the CM for the second term, Kejriwal ordered that any file related to police, public order and land should be routed through CMO. LG Najeeb Jung refused to do so as these three matters are the exclusive domain of the LG.

In May 2015, a controversy started when Shakuntala Gamlin, the then power secretary who was also acting as the Chief Secretary was touted as corrupt by Arvind Kejriwal in a public rally. LG Jung took a stance that all powers related to the appointment of bureaucrats lie with him. It was around the same time when LG Jung appointed M K Meena as the head of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB).

By the end of 2015, there was a raid at the CM’s office by the CBI in the Delhi secretariat for which Kejriwal blamed PM Modi directly. Another round of tussle started when an officer in the home department blocked a file related to the salary hike for jail officials, the elected government took action against him, and then the bureaucrats went on a day-long strike. The Delhi government claimed that bureaucrats went on strike as per the instructions of LG Jung.

ALSO READ| Delhi LG stalled appointment of govt counsels, claims AAP

This was the time when LG approved a case against Kejriwal and former CM Sheila Dikshit in the alleged water tanker scam. The whole matter related to the power struggle then reached the Delhi High Court, which ordered in favour of the LG. Immediately after the HC order, the AAP government challenged the same in the Supreme Court.

In 2016, there was a massive outbreak of Chikungunya in Delhi, CM Arvind Kejriwal was out of the city for treatment and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia was visiting Finland on an official trip. When Deputy CM Sisodia returned from the trip, LG Jung called him and sounded his displeasure. Jung remained in the LG office till December 2016 and his tenure was full of controversies.

ANIL BAIJAL v/s ARVIND KEJRIWAL

Anil Baijal was a former union home secretary and an IAS officer of the 1969 batch. When he took charge at the end of the year 2016, it was expected that he would manage the controversies in a better way in comparison to Najeeb Jung. For the initial few months, when the hearing for the ongoing power tussle continued before the Supreme Court bench, everything was rather quiet on both sides.

But just before the end of the year 2017, another big controversy was taking shape. Arvind Kejriwal’s government proposed the doorstep delivery of services scheme but LG Bijal refused permission citing several concerns like safety, traffic jam, and unnecessary burden over the state exchequer.

At the beginning of 2018, one of the biggest controversies hogged the limelight when Chief Secretary Anshul Prakash alleged that he was manhandled by some of the AAP MLAs at the residence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Police started the investigation and even surveyed the CM’s residence and the allegation of backing the police was labeled against LG Anil Baijal.

In June, CM Arvind Kejriwal along with his cabinet colleagues Manish Sisodia, Satyendra Jain and Gopal Rai protested for several days to clear the installation of CCTV cameras on the streets of the capital and alleged non-cooperation from the bureaucrats. A big development happened in July 2018 when the Supreme Court of India ruled in the favour of LG that police, public order, and services come under the jurisdiction of the LG. The court instructed both sides to work in coordination.

Given this, the central government brought an amendment bill in the year 2021 to make the LG the real boss in the capital city. This means every policy decision and cabinet proposal needs prior approval from the Lieutenant Governor. The tussle between Anil Baijal and Kejriwal also came into public view when there was a shortage of oxygen during the Covid times and LG constituted an inquiry into the matter.

ALSO READ| Delhi LG Vinai Saxena approves 66 per cent hike in MLAs’ pay

EQUATION OF SHEILA DIKSHIT WITH LGs

Out of 20 years before Arvind Kejriwal took over as the chief minister, Sheila Dikshit remained in office for 15 years. Starting from Vijay Kapoor, she dealt with 4 different Lieutenant governors. Senior bureaucrats in the Delhi government claimed that Sheila had a different working style altogether. She had several differences with the LGs but she dealt with them with political maturity and most of those differences never came out in public.

Vijay Kapoor was an alumnus of St Stephens College and shared a family relationship with Sheila Dikshit as her husband Vinod Dikshit was a good friend of Kapoor. Kapoor even shared a good personal relationship with Sheila as she was a Miranda House alumnus.

Despite such a good relationship, a tussle started between them when the elected government brought some bills to the Delhi assembly in which it was written that Government means Government of NCT of Delhi. Vijay Kapoor objected to it and brought a notification from the central government in which it was clarified that the government means LG of Delhi.

After Vijay Kapoor, Banwarli Lal Joshi took over the reins in Raj Niwas, Delhi. Bureaucrats working at that time in the Delhi government mentioned that, before becoming the Delhi LG, Joshi never held a big office and hence, he was reluctant to approve big-ticket projects.

Sheila was quite annoyed about this attitude and she stopped going to the weekly CM-LG meetings. It was in the 2005-06 period when some of the party colleagues were also against the Sheila Dixit government and accused her of corruption, especially in the privatisation of electricity distribution. Hence, Sheila was facing double trouble still she never went to the public against the then LG.

Tejinder Khanna came to the Raj Niwas in the year 2007 at a time when Delhi needed a fast-track policy implementation due to the upcoming Common Wealth Games. The main problem was getting land for the developmental projects.

Delhi Development Authority (DDA) DDA was with the central government and LG was the chairman of the land-owning agency in Delhi. A bureaucrat told India Today that when they found it difficult to get land for many projects, including bus depots, and water and health facilities, a solution was found by Sheila Dikshit. The solution was to acquire gram sabha lands in different villages to do these projects.

DDA complained about this to LG Tejinder Khanna and he stopped the use of Gram Sabha land by the Delhi government claiming that if these villages would become urbanized then DDA would require these lands for other projects. Sheila Dikshit went to Tejinder Khanna and convinced him to allow set up these facilities on Gram Sabha land in the broader public interest.

ALSO READ| Sheila Dikshit: Last empress of Delhi who loved the city like a teenager

One of the senior retired bureaucrats told India Today that even Madan Lal Khurana had many issues with the then LG P K Dave. When the lottery was banned in Delhi by CM Khurana, a corpus fund of thousands of crores was available. LG Delhi was the sole authority to use that fund.

LG Dave didn’t consult CM Khurana and released that fund to construct a hospital in North Delhi. Delhi CM was quite miffed because he was waiting that LG will take his advice as well before using such a big amount. But that never happened and Khurana never got the political advantage of that project.

Hence, there are numerous stories on how the different CMs worked with different LGs and not always in a cordial way. But those leaders chose not to bring these controversies to the public and sorted them out amicably by meetings or help of interlocuters like senior bureaucrats in the central or the Delhi government.

— ENDS —

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