Najeeb Jung’s sudden resignation as Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Delhi shocked political circles around the country. The move was unexpected and his statement to the Government of India mentioned no reason for his exit.
While Jung’s career as LG was a tumultuous one, tainted by his altercations with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, an investigation by Frontline finds that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has taken an "extraordinary interest" in the happenings in the capital since Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party came to power.
According to senior officials, Jung sent his resignation not to the Ministry of Home Affairs or the President’s Secretariat to which he was expected to report, but directly to the PMO.
After his meeting with the Prime Minister, Jung had told reporters that he had tried to resign twice before, but the PM requested him to continue.
This, according to Frontline, was one of the rare instances since AAP came to power in February 2015 when a senior official of the Centre conceded to the PM’s link to Delhi’s administration. Before this, it was mostly Kejriwal and AAP parroting assertions of Modi’s “interference”.
Through several Right to Information (RTI) applications and interviews with government officials, Frontline has unearthed evidence that PMO kept close tabs on the Government of the National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi since March 2015, a month after Kejriwal’s government took charge.
The report quotes two specific instances that indicate the PMO kept a close watch on the rather public territorial feud between Jung and Kejriwal.
Instance No 1
On 28 March 2015, Shishir Gupta, Executive Editor of Hindustan Times, allegedly sent an email to BJP national president Amit Shah and Officer on Special Duty in the PMO Hiren Joshi. The subject line of the email was “KEJRIWAL AGAINST CENTRE”.
An excerpt from the alleged email reads:
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal is on course to abrogate all powers of the Centre in NCR with neither the Home Ministry nor the BJP MLAs/Pradesh unit doing anything to contest it. The buzz in Delhi Government is that BJP will do nothing to aggravate issues with Kejriwal due to its impact on forthcoming Bihar poll.
Gupta listed out specific instances that he termed “violations” by Kejriwal. The first one reads:
He wrote a letter to Delhi L-G citing a 1998 order by then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani that all files relating to police/public order/land should be routed to the Chief Minister. This has already started with Kejriwal interfering in who should be appointed as lawyers for prosecution in Delhi Police cases. He now wants recruitment of 60 policemen to help anti-corruption bureau of Delhi Government on his own.
The email, according to Frontline, was written in a way that didn’t demand a response but was only passing on information. Gupta told Frontline he did not receive a response, but the PMO appears to have taken it seriously.
On 31 March, principal secretary to the PM Nripendra Misra called the Additional Secretary (Cabinet Secretariat) and sought a “factual report” on the email within five days. A draft of the letter to the L-G asking for a factual report was prepared but never sent, as Jung responded on the same day.
Instance No 2
The second instance is the dispute over the state government’s jurisdiction over the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB).
In a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 8 April, Jung sought legal opinion on two issues. The first was a resolution passed by the Delhi Assembly accusing the Centre of “diluting the efforts for eradication of corruption from Delhi by curtailing the jurisdiction of the ACB”. The second was on a notification issued by the MHA on 23 July 2014, which emphasised that the ACB could take action only against Delhi government employees and not any others within the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
But before the request could be forwarded to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, Law Secretary PK Malhotra signed off on a page with a note at the bottom.
Ld Attorney General has earlier seen this matter and given his opinion on page 36/n. The present reference from page 50/n is the result of letter dated 08.04.2015 (Annex A) received from Lt. Governor, Delhi. Home Ministry, in consultation with PMO, desires opinion of Ld Attorney General May kindly see (sic).
Evidently, the PMO took personal interest in the matter.
While Kejriwal continues to harp on Modi’s non-jurisdictional involvement in the capital’s government, how his relationship with new L-G Anil Baijal will play out remains to be seen.
There are already speculations about why Baijal’s name was cleared by the PMO before it could even be sent to the President for official involvement. The question big for now is: Will the tussle between the Delhi Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor end?