Arvind Kejriwal vs LG: High court verdict is slap on Delhi voters

It is a slap on Arvind Kejriwal's face, exulted his critics after the Delhi High Court's decision making Najeeb Jung the boss of Delhi.

No, sweetie, did you check your cheeks lately? The slap is actually on the face of Delhi's voters.

Look at it like this: The HC, for no fault of its, has absolved Delhi's elected government of all accountability. It has given Kejriwal a valid reason to put one leg over the other, twiddle his thumb and tell everyone who comes to him to go chew the Lt Governor's brain.

Voter: Sir, a buffalo carcass is stinking in our colony.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Kejriwal: Main kya karun ji? Go to LG.

I know that's an exaggeration. But you can get the drift.

Kejriwal and Jung were fighting over their areas of jurisdiction for more than a year. Unable to persuade the LG to grant the executive freedom he wants, Kejriwal had approached the HC for his rights.

But, a bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini said the LG is Delhi’s administrative head and isn’t bound by the advice of the city council of ministers.

According to the Hindustan Times, the court also scrapped the AAP government’s directive to the city power regulator to compensate consumers in case of unscheduled power cuts as the decision wasn’t communicated to the LG.

It also judged illegal enquiries initiated by the Kejriwal governments in some alleged irregularities by Delhi officials.

“On a reading of Article 239 and Article 239 AA (special provisions to Delhi) of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991... it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory,” the bench said.

Jung has blocked many decisions taken by Kejriwal. As Prem Shankar Jha points out in The Wire, these include regularising the employment of 15,000 temporary teachers; raising the land acquisition compensation in Delhi from the present Rs 54 lakhs per acre to the prevailing market price of Rs 3 crores, and engaging Akshaya Patra, the well-known NGO headed by Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy that runs midday meal schemes for 1.5 million children, to run Delhi’s midday meal programme.

The HC verdict effectively says Kejriwal can't complain if Jung vetoes his decision. His hands are tied in supplication.

Kejriwal can't compensate consumers for power cuts. He can't provide financial assistance to farmers for failed crops or buy their land at market rates. And he can't even ask his anti-corruption sleuths to act against Central government officers posted in Delhi against whom citizens have lodged complaints through a helpline. All he can do now is pass legislation, clear bills, take decisions and then pray for the LG to say yes to them.

Congratulations, Delhi, for electing a courier service instead of a chief minister.

If you were Kejriwal, the HC decision would have made you wild with joy. Imagine earning all that money, getting so many sops, lal battis, perks, bungalows and then not being expected to do anything. Hand on your heart, how many of you wouldn't kill for such a sinecure?

The purpose of an election in a democracy is, as someone famously said, to elect sevaks, legislators responsible for working for their voters, solving their problems; choosing people who can be held accountable for their failures and promises. Not to distribute free lunches.

The HC decision, in hindsight, makes the Delhi election look like a bigger and wilder version of Big Boss, where nearly 1.25 crore voters elected 70 people to walk away with the poshest job and perks in town. Next time, instead of the Election Commission, Salman Khan can be tasked to conduct it.

Frankly, the joke is on Delhi's voter. For, Kejriwal has already laughed his way to the heart of Punjab. Using Delhi as a springboard to other states, his AAP has already moved on, putting itself in the pole position in Punjab and emerging a serious contender in Goa and a wannabe in Gujarat. Kejriwal doesn't need Delhi any more.

If his party goes on to win Punjab — a result that is quite likely — Kejriwal would now have a valid excuse for moving lock, stock and muffler to Chandigarh. Delhi, he can bluntly say, deserves a politician with lots of time to kill. Perhaps he can ask Kumar Vishwas to take over so that he gets enough time to write his poetry when not swatting flies in the secretariat. That would be a throwback to the time of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last ruler of India, who killed time writing stirring poetry in the Red Fort! (Umr-e-daraaz maang kar laaye they chaar din, do arzoo mein kat gaye do, intezaar mein, Zafar wrote, perhaps to sum up Kejriwal's plight).

Knowing Kejriwal, he of the famous upadravi gotra (loosely translated an incorrigible miscreant), is unlikely to do any of this. Kejriwal's history has shown us that he loves to be pushed into a corner, from where he can aim his slingshots at the Goliaths of Indian polity. Being a bechara is Kejriwal's dream job. And once again the BJP has contrived to put Kejriwal in his favourite corner.

Rest assured, he will come out screaming and shouting, kicking and flailing his arms, crying persecution and throwing his hands up in frustration and disgust, complaining that nobody lets him do any work.

Guess what? He would be paid full time for it.

There is of course the fear that the HC decision would now become the benchmark for the future of governance in Delhi. Where Kejriwal is today, tomorrow there might be someone else.

As Dilbert famously said, sometimes you are the bird, sometimes you are the statue.

Pity the Delhi voters won't have that option. The HC decision has ensured voters of Delhi will always be the statue covered in droppings.

Updated Date: Aug 05, 2016 10:49 AM

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