The war of words between Delhi’s AAP government and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung reached the Rashtrapati Bhavan, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accusing Jung of interfereing in the working of his elected government and even threatening officials.
And in another act of defiance, the AAP government earlier named Arvind Ray, an IAS officer removed by the lt. governor from the post of secretary (home), as the secretary (general administrative deparment).
The post of secretary (GAD) was earlier held by Anindo Majumdar, who was on Monday locked out of his office at the Delhi Secretariat on Kejriwal’s orders for following Jung’s fiat to appoint Shakuntala Gamlin as acting chief secretary on May 15.
It was Gamlin’s elevation which dramatically triggered the worst confrontation between Jung and the AAP government that stormed to power in February.
Emerging after meeting Mukherjee along with Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said: “We had a good meeting with the president. We told him that the LG is trying to run Delhi the way he did during President’s Rule.
“We told him that that LG is issuing direction to officers bypassing the chief minister and threatening them. If this goes on, where will democracy be?”
Sisodia and Kejriwal informed the president that despite their objections, Jung insisted on appointing Gamlin. “We later approved (her name) … but now (Jung) is interfering in the appointment of secretaries too.”
Sisodia said Mukherjee listened to them “carefully” and sought further details. “He (president) was worried and concerned (over the matter). He assured us that he will look into it.”
Jung also met the president earlier on Tuesday but details of that meeting were not available.
Meanwhile, in shot in the arm for the AAP, senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Rajeev Dhavan criticized Jung, with one of them saying he had exceeded his authority.
The two lawyers submitted their legal opinion to the Kejriwal government on its request following the tussle over the posting of Delhi bureaucrats.
Jung’s office told IANS it would issue a statement later on Tuesday. But none came.
In his written advice, Dhavan said: “It is abundantly clear that the lt. governor has exceeded his authority and has turned the entire relationship between himself and the council of ministers on its head to jeopardise democracy and the constitution.”
In her letter, Jaising said the political executive was “constitutionally empowered” to choose its own officers in accordance with the cadre.
“Who will be the chief secretary or any other secretary of the government is a matter in which the governor has to yield to the will of the political executive which has been democratically elected,” she said.
She also said the discretionary power to appoint a chief secretary can be found neither in the constitution nor in any statute.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stepped in, obliquiely in favour of Jung, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying the Kejriwal government had let down Delhi’s voters.
“Primarily development works have to be expedited but the AAP government has instead chosen a path of confrontation,” he told a BJP meeting.
AAP spokesman Ashutosh hit back, saying Jaitley, who “ran away” from Delhi to contest the Lok Sabha election from Punjab, was now insulting the people who voted for the AAP.
On Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia has convened a meeting of the chief secretary and all the secretaries of various departments.
There have been differences between the Delhi government and Jung over a range of issues, with the appointment of Gamlin as the latest flashpoint.
The Kejriwal government accused Gamlin of lobbying for power companies.
On Monday, Jung rejected the appointment of Rajendra Kumar as the principal secretary (services). Later, the Delhi government said it won’t pay heed to what he (Jung) had said as it was “unconstitutional”.
Kejriwal on Sunday accused the Modi government of trying to trip up his government.