Arvind Kejriwal and LG should re-engage to streamline administration in Delhi

After the initial ecstasy and celebration, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal must have realised that the Supreme Court has not given his government any additional powers. It has merely stated where the LG’s jurisdiction ends. Be that as may, law and order, police and land continue to be outside Kejriwal government’s ambit and the state legislature’s purview. So, his plans to have an investigative agency for the city government have got shelved.

Also, Kejriwal will not have a say on positioning security officers drawn from different central agencies and Delhi Police. His rants on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) or fare hikes by Delhi Metro have been ignored.

Kejriwal also faces the hard reality of Delhi not being a full state under the prevailing constitutional norms. Supreme Court’s observations on Delhi statehood should bring Kejriwal out of his stupor. The court clearly enunciated the differences in statehood provided elsewhere and Delhi. Though, it lifted the veil conclusively on how the LG has to act in consonance with the state cabinet’s decisions.

But, Supreme Court five-judge bench directive upheld the generic principle of elected government and state legislature’s powers on other subjects. Also, the highest court took this as an opportunity to remind Lieutenant Governor (LG) that he does not enjoy separate powers to legislate or pick up cudgels with the elected chief minister on every issue big or small.

The 530-odd-page Supreme Court order however has left specific key issues open-ended with scope for challenge and interpretation in the coming days.

For instance, the court does not specify under whose control the services department involving posting, transfers and promotion of personnel would work. Earlier, Delhi High Court order that kept ‘babus’ under LG’s charge have not been squashed. Home ministry order on the issue has also not been set aside either.

Moreover, Supreme Court upheld the governor’s powers to refer issues on which he differs with the elected government to the President of India through home ministry. Limited consolation for Kejriwal was that LG can exercise these powers ‘sparingly’. In effect, Supreme Court has asked both LG and Kejriwal government to draw up a ‘working relationship’ of sorts without getting into bullfight on every single issue. We need to remember that Sheila Dikshit governed Delhi uninterrupted for 15 years even though there was a LG in place. The BJP at the Centre has tried to muscle its way into Delhi affairs by using the instrumentality of LG’s office, that needs to end here and now.

In fact, the order tried to lay down rules for smooth functioning of AAP government on one side and LG who derives his administrative power from Home Ministry. Without brokering peace between warring factions, the Supreme Court tried its best to balance out the powers for state and LG.

Former chief minister Shiela Dixit whose Congress government ruled the city for 15 long years was very clear in her reaction that there was huge difference in powers enjoyed by other states and Delhi government.

Ending ego issues, personal conflicts, Arvind Kejriwal and LG  should re-engage to streamline administration in Delhi.

Kejriwal cannot take umbrage under argument that centre and LG were out to disrupt functioning of his government.  Instead, he will have to reconcile and find a way to deliver. Having wasted years, at least next 12 months must be served purposefully.

LG, on the other hand, became the biggest hindrance to governance in Delhi. Perhaps, smooth functioning of Shiela Dixit government should provide enough insight into LG allowing a democratic regime to prevail with respect for elected legislators.

Kejriwal will have to fight his political battle with BJP and Congress on the streets of Delhi. Dissipating his party’s energies with dharnas at LG’s house or physically assaulting chief secretary and alienating AAP from bureaucracy will not work.

Breaking the jinx of non-governance, changing the narrative from brinkmanship to politically acceptable performing government is the responsibility of Arvind Kejriwal and no one else.

Huge mandate for change, promise to provide corruption free government and catering to aspirations of Delhites are the way forward.