Delhi chief secretary allegedly assaulted: When Arvind Kejriwal plays anarchist, 'aam aadmi' bears the brunt

Back in January 2014, braving Delhi's evening winter chill, Arvind Kejriwal had landed at the Rail Bhawan in the Capital's Rajpath area in his new avatar as chief minister, to stage a dharna demanding the suspension of two junior police officers. He had then famously said: "They say I am an anarchist. Yes, I am."

The recent turn of events at the chief minister's official residence around midnight on Monday, when the serving chief secretary of Delhi Anshu Prakash was allegedly threatened, abused and thrashed by ruling Aam Admi Party MLAs proves that Kejriwal continues to be just that, an anarchist. The problem is that it is the city and its people that have to bear the brunt of his idiosyncrasies.

The chief secretary happens to be the senior-most civil servant of a state or Union Territory and the chief minister is the elected head of the government. Proper coordination and good personal rapport between the two is an essential pre-condition for effective delivery of goods and services in the state or Union Territory (as is the case in Delhi).

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

The government in the state or at the Centre, after all, works through layers of bureaucratic structures. As of now, the political executive (ruling AAP) and permanent executive bureaucracy are at loggerheads – a series of charges and counter-charges have been levelled by each against the other.

Delhi IAS officers association, Delhi sub-ordinate service association and Delhi government employee welfare association have gone on a pen-down strike – they are attending office but not working. Their argument is simple - if the chief secretary can be abused and assaulted in front of the chief minister at his residence then the fate of subordinate staffers could be even worse.

The political leadership of AAP, meanwhile, is busy lodging complaints against the chief secretary, alleging that he made casteist remarks against Dalit members of the party. It is also bringing in the issue of ration cards and delivery of subsidised ration to intended lower income groups. After allegedly committing a highly condemnable act, the AAP leadership it seems is trying to give a spin to the whole thing to swing public opinion in its favour and energise its cadre. The situation could not be more bizarre than what is now happening right now in Delhi. The fear of a constitutional breakdown is real.

AAP's attempt to build a poor, Dalit-angled political narrative out of the condemnable act, allegedly committed by the ruling party's trusted MLAs, is alarming. Sources revealed that the chief secretary was called at the chief minister's residence late on Monday to discuss the release of advertisements on the completion of three years of AAP government in Delhi.

The bureaucracy had red-flagged the words "seen and unseen forces" inserted in the ads and had withheld their clearance, even as they had been approved by Kejriwal. The bureaucracy had cited Supreme Court's guidelines to red flag the ads. It was an argument on these ads which is said to have been the tipping point at Kejriwal’s residence.

Prakash has since written a comprehensive note giving a blow-by-blow account of incidents as they happened on Monday and has submitted that to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Union home minister Rajnath Singh. He has also filed a complaint with DCP north.

Prakash wrote that he got repeated reminders from Kejriwal's office that the chief minister would meet him at midnight on Monday. When he reached there and was ushered into the room, Kejriwal is said to have been present there with his deputy Manish Sisodia and 11 other MLAs.

The chief secretary was made to sit in the middle of a three seater sofa with Amanatullah Khan and another MLA. The two MLAs kept demanding to know why Kejriwal's three-years-in-government ads were not released and allegedly started punching him. Prakash was allegedly abused and beaten. The MLAs are said to have even threatened him, saying they would implicate the chief secretary under false charges pertaining to the SC/ST Act, the written account revealed.

This raises a pertinent question: Why was the chief secretary summoned by Kejriwal and allegedly made to satisfy the demands of a group of MLAs?

Unfortunately, as reports and Prakash's account suggests in this case, it was Kejriwal who prepared the ground for a confrontation between the topmost official and his MLAs. In a way, he played facilitator for the boorish act by his MLAs.

There are laid out norms and mechanisms to deal with grievances by MLAs against public servants and the forum for that is the Assembly. Kejriwal and AAP are guilty of violating the norm of parliamentary democracy but the party seems to be unrepentant. "Why should bureaucrats not be accountable to an elected representative", a party spokesperson said. Kejriwal had been a bureaucrat, did he apply the same principle to himself when he was serving?

The AAP is using its alleged falsehood as if it is on a campaign trail and is raising the pitch against a rival political outfit. But then, the problem of Delhi's babus not obliging them is there. The party, meanwhile, has also put out its own version of the event, in writing.

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2018 19:01:06 IST

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