Delhi chief secretary row: Is AAP versus Anshu Prakash tussle a fit case for President's Rule?
Delhi is not an easy place for a chief secretary as the National Capital Territory has many bosses issuing directions and the top babu of the city has to walk a tightrope all the time. He is responsible for success and failure of a government in Delhi.
The 1986-batch IAS officer Anshu Prakash has a tough job at hand which becomes even harder given the power politics of the BJP that rules the Centre and AAP that heads a government in Delhi. The matter becomes complicated as Delhi is administered by officers of AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territory) cadre, whose career depends more at the "pleasure" of the Centre and not the state government.
With AAP MLAs allegedly assaulting Anshu Prakash in presence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia has led Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to report to the Centre over "breakdown of governance" in Delhi and the BJP to demand dismissal of the government.
Has Delhi become a case that the Centre may use as an excuse to dismiss Kejriwal government?
FIRST, WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE INCIDENT
- Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash was summoned by CM Arvind Kejriwal to his residence on Monday midnight. Reports suggest that nearly a dozen AAP MLAs were present at CM Kejriwal's residence for the midnight meeting with Anshu Prakash.
- It is highly unusual for a chief secretary to be summoned at midnight at chief minister's residence. It is done only in cases of emergency situations. Altercations took place between Anshu Prakash and AAP MLAs that took an ugly turn with two of the legislators, allegedly assaulted Delhi chief secretary. Anshu Prakash identified one of the assaulters as Amanatullah Khan.
- Later, AAP MLA Ajay Dutt wrote a letter to the Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik complaining against Anshu Prakash accusing him of using casteist slurs against him and Prakash Jarwal. The legislators claimed that the meeting was called to discuss delay in release of ration to BPL families in their respective constituencies.
- However, the fact that no other officer or the official responsible for the PDS and ration distribution did not accompany Anshu Prakash gives an indication that the meeting might not been originally scheduled to discuss the matter. Even Food Supplies Minister Imran Hussain was not present in the midnight meeting.
- On the other hand, Anshu Prakash, in his letter to DCP North, claimed that he had been called to Kejriwal's residence at midnight to discuss delay in the release of TV advertisement for publicity of the AAP government's tenure of three years.
- He wrote: "On 19.2.2018, I was informed on telephone around 8.45 pm by Advisor to Chief Minister VK Jain that I have to reach CM's Residence at 12.00 midnight to discuss with Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister the issue of difficulty in release of certain TV Advertisement relating to completion of three years of current Government in Delhi."
- TV advertisement has been a bone contention between Anshu Prakash and Arvind Kejriwal with latter having expressed his strong displeasure with the delay in release. Anshu Prakash has claimed that the TV advertisement contravenes the Supreme Court guidelines in this regard.
- His argument over delay in releasing TV advertisement of the Kejriwal government has been that the "officers were bound by the guidelines laid down by Supreme Court and advertisement to be released must be in consonance with the said guidelines." AAP has alleged that Anshu Prakash is acting at the behest of the BJP in blocking publicity of Kejriwal government.
- The AAP MLAs allegedly got infuriated and allegedly landed blows on Anshu Prakash. The medical report says that Anshu Prakash received injuries in his face and behind the ears. Now, the bureaucrats have launched a fresh non-cooperation movement against Kejriwal government. Governance is practically halted in Delhi.
- L-G Baijal has sent his report to the home ministry. Incidentally, since the departure of Najeeb Jung from the office of L-G in Delhi, Kejriwal government and Baijal had had a rather smooth sailing with differences being kept at the minimum level before it started to precipitate around the third anniversary of the AAP government.
PRESIDENT'S RULE IS AN OPTION
There is speculation that L-G Baijal's report and Delhi bureaucracy's perceived refusal to work under the Kejriwal government may form the basis for imposing President's Rule. The BJP has already demanded imposition of President's Rule in Delhi.
The Congress has blamed both the AAP and the BJP for the stalemate in Delhi. It is the one party that is most likely to gain from imposition of President's Rule in Delhi followed by an early election. The blame for administrative paralysis or dismissal of an elected government would be placed on either the Kejriwal's AAP government or the NDA government of Narendra Modi.
Secondly, the Congress drew a naught in the last Assembly election in Delhi. Its tally can only increase in the next election. On the hand, the BJP is also likely to gain as it has only four MLAs in the 70-seat Delhi Assembly. The AAP is the only party that is set to lose, if anything, and will, surely, oppose any move to impose President's Rule in Delhi.
CAN PRESIDENT'S RULE BE AN OPTION?
Article 356 of Constitution provides for imposition President's Rule in a state which has an elected Assembly. The state comes under direct rule of the Centre but this can happen only in the case of "failure of constitutional machinery" there.
The conditions that may prove breakdown of constitutional machinery are deterioration of law and order, state legislature's failure to elect a chief minister, split in the ruling party or coalition, loss of majority by the government and postponement of election.
In the case of Delhi, law and order comes under the Centre and the remaining conditions don't exist. Still, there is impasse in governance in Delhi. Administration is practically at standstill.
The Supreme Court has, further, made it clear in 1994-SR Bommai case that the outgoing chief minister must be given opportunity to prove majority on the floor of the House in concerned Assembly. Kejriwal will never mind such an opportunity to showcase his strength.
Recent experiments to impose President's Rule in other states including Uttarakhand and Bihar, have not gone in Centre's favour and ended up in a loss of face for the ruling party. This makes Delhi's case politically tantalising. If the Modi government treads that path, it may be double-edged sword precariously close to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.