To Delhi’s citizens and television watchers across the country, the almost daily tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung must have become something of an irritant and a bore. Every move by the Chief Minister is blocked by the Lieutenant-Governor. Kejriwal is now using the stabbing to death of a young girl on a busy street in broad daylight as an occasion to target the Central government itself; he wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hand over the police department to the Delhi government so that the law and order situation in the national capital can be directly addressed. He argues that the Prime Minister is unable to give his full attention to the problem because of his other preoccupations.
The Aam Aadmi government has been making this demand from the first 49-day stint in office. It cannot be dismissed lightly because (a) the Delhi law and order situation demands more focused attention than it is getting now from an otherwise preoccupied Union Ministry of Home Affairs and its minions and (b) Kejriwal heads, after all, an elected government. The Chief Minister’s bid for full statehood for Delhi may be a larger issue that requires more deliberation, but it does not help if the Lieutenant-Governor negates everything the CM does. The latest instance is the cancellation of the appointment of a chairperson for the Delhi Commision for Women. The Lieutenant-Governor proclaimed that any action by the chairperson would be “ultra vires and infructuous.” What interest is served by such an adversarial relationship between the CM and the L-G?
The ball is in the court of the Union government because the L-G is no more than a central appointee. It stands to reason that the Union government help initiate measures to resolve contentious issues on the basis of a compromise, lest the impression spreads that the Modi government is out to render the Aam Aadmi government toothless as part of political rivalry. The L-G has greater administrative experience; he can play a constructive role in running the capital region’s government. At the same time, Kejriwal can gain more by being less adamant in his outlook. He is not the idol of the people he once was. Recognising his limitations can be a good way to make his government a functioning one.