AAP dharna against Delhi L-G: Illusion of 'apolitical' nature of IAS cadre lies shattered, says party member

Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal's 'sit-in' andolan, along with three of his ministers (of which two are on an indefinite hunger strike), to protest against the abject non-cooperation of a highly-politicised Indian Administrative Services (IAS) lobby in National Capital, which has not been attending any meetings called by the political executive for the past four months, and the recalcitrance of the intransigent Lieutenant Governor (L-G) who is aiding and abetting this strike on the behest of his political masters, has entered its 8th day.

This week-long showdown was long in the offing given the undemocratic and reprehensible emasculation of the AAP-ruled Delhi government by the BJP-ruled central government since the time a plucky Kejriwal, a veritable David in Indian politics, slam-dunked the Modi-led BJP, a Goliath, in the winter of 2015. The continuing tussle and the political churning that it has given rise to has taught us, in a span of merely seven days, a few things — some promising and some not so.

Kejriwal positions self as fulcrum of Opposition's Mahagathbandhan 

Four regional chief ministers, senior party leaders from the Opposition camp, several government employees, safai-karamcharis of the BJP-ruled MCDs, teachers, dhobis, Resident Welfare Association (RWA), eminent public intellectuals and former, senior IAS officers — have came out supposrting Kejriwal's protest against the tyranny of the 'unelected'. Some of this strength was more than visible in the massive (albeit peaceful) protest march that thousands of right-thinking Delhi-ites took out on a balmy and humid Sunday evening.

A protester at the AAP strike against the L-G high-handedness in Delhi on Sunday. Image courtesy: Twitter/ @AamAadmiParty

A protester at the AAP strike against the L-G high-handedness in Delhi on Sunday. Image courtesy: Twitter/ @AamAadmiParty

All this and more when with clockwork efficiency, the often rabid cabal of an ill-informed political opposition, blustery 24x7 media and drawing-room political pundits rushed to write the epitaph of Kejriwal and his party — yet again — and squarely blamed him for sitting on his hands, for resorting to dharna politics and for not doing enough to end the impasse with the L-G and the IAS officers.

There are some who perpetually predict that Kejriwal will fade ignominiously as he is just a momentary flash in the pan. But Kejriwal continues to translate the simmering anger amid the common masses into considerable mass support.

With his latest sit-in andolan — a product of political smarts borne out of having one's ear to the problems at the grassroots level — and by directly challenging Modi and calling out his misdeeds, Kejriwal has smartly positioned himself as the fulcrum upon which the federal front of Opposition parties — the mahagathbandhan — (without the Congress) can challenge the unbridled tyranny of Modi and his party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The steel frame of IAS is not only rusted but is conspicuous by its absence

Sardar Patel, India's first deputy prime minister, famously called the IAS the 'Steel Frame' of the government machinery. Patel envisaged the IAS to act as the solid under-structure upon which the governance machinery — the day-to-day operations and the often complex nitty-gritties of administration — would rest. The IAS was supposed to be a closed clique of the nation's best and the brightest who would provide unfailing support to the citizens and the elected political executive, irrespective of the IAS officers' personal political predilections.

However, as Delhi's escalating conflict has ably demonstrated, today this illusory will o' the wisp that the IAS is a premier apolitical body is shattered. The IAS is nothing more than a tool to be used at the hands of its cadre controlling authority — the BJP-led Centre.

From not attending meetings with the chief minister and his cabinet, to disseminating false, politically-motivated and specious information antithetical to AAP, to creating roadblocks in the schemes and projects initiated by the elected government in Delhi, these 'selected' babus, who are happy to enjoy the pleasures of a fat pay-check and the princely perks bestowed upon them by virtue of the high responsibility entrusted with them by the Constitution, have in-the process of mobilising against Kejriwal and AAP, not only broken umpteen number of conduct rules but have also reduced their stature to that of clerks and paper-pushers who are more than willing to be used as armaments in political skirmishes in anticipation of plum postings in the future.

One truly wonders if the hallowed institution of IAS will ever be able to recover from the trust deficit that has been created by the damaging IAS lobby in Delhi. The finding of a supposed spine by the IAS Association is indeed a once-in-millennium event that depends more on the ides of political currents than concerns born out of actual welfare of officers.

Delhi L-G has besmirched the Constitutional office of the Governor

Introduced in 1987 by political scientist McCubbins, bureaucratic drift is a concept which explains the difference between a bureaucrat's understanding and implementation of a policy versus the intent of the political executive. Legislation is usually decided upon by elected public representatives, but implemented with impunity by bureaucrats, unaccountable to voters who act as per their own political leanings, preferences and interests.

The central premise of a democracy is that citizens elect politicians in order to hold the un-elected bureaucrats accountable. That is precisely why we have elections: To vote to office political leaders who can provide that change to the populace and may not necessarily be aligned to the status quo way of doing things which bureaucrats are used to.

And when in office, accountability is a key lever of performance and governance. After all, when one is elected to office, one is stood up for scrutiny in the court of the masses every five years. It is only the people who have the right to decide whether Kejriwal's government has committed any errors of commission and omission, not the unelected L-G.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury also participated in the protest organised by AAP against the L-G in Delhi on Sunday. Image courtesy: Twitter/@cpimspeak

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury also participated in the protest organised by AAP against the L-G in Delhi on Sunday. Image courtesy: Twitter/@cpimspeak

Instead, in a show of blatant disregard for democratic norms and convention, the L-G has encouraged bureaucrats to openly defy or stall the government's decisions, thereby sidestepping, in spirit, most of the Constitution's procedural freedoms and evading answerability. He has gradually and surely moved legislative power out of the elected Vidhan Sabha into insulared and crumbling administrative agencies run by bureaucrats like him.

Federalism and Constitutional proprietary are in tatters under Narendra Modi

The concept of 'federalism' in the Indian context has always been a tricky one. For instance, on the states' complaints that the constituent assembly had drafted the Indian Constitution bereft of a federal structure, Dr. BR Ambedkar, during one his eloquent speeches set the record straight by stating: "…the states under our constitution are in no way dependent upon the Centre for their legislative or executive authority. The Centre and State are co-equal in this matter…"

Additionally, the underlying philosophy of an elected polity and representative democracy was pronounced clearly by James Madison in the Federalist Paper No. 46 where he stated that the state's ultimate security and authority lies in the confidence of its people. and this confidence can only be expressed through the political process of elections.

And this is what happened in Delhi in 2015, when over 50 percent of the electorate voted for Kejriwal and his party and gave it an unprecedented 67 seats in a legislative assembly of 70. The people had spoken loud and clear. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.

However, unable to digest a humiliating defeat at the hands of a political up-start, the 56'' Pradhan Sewak unleashed a reign of oppression and terror, under the sanctuary of Delhi's confused constitutional status as a state, upon the AAP government in Delhi.

From installing L-Gs who act as self-anointed nawabs of the Delhi Sultanate to instigating a strike by the IAS officers which has led to delay in the execution of critical government projects to raiding and arresting AAP ministers and MLAs on trumped up political cases only to be reprimanded by the Delhi High Court and multiple district courts to eroding the accountability of the esteemed institution of Election Commission to the vindictive hounding of a senior IAS Officer, Rajendra Kumar, who refused to tow to the Centre's line — Modi and Amit Shah have practiced a brand of politics that is not only brutal in nature but also antithetical to what makes our country democratic - the Constitution of India.

The author works with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Delhi government on key issues. He tweets @pranavj142

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Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 16:31:09 IST

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