NEW DELHI: Whether it is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) crying foul this week over how former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala’s parole plea reached Lieutenant Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung without passing through the chief minister’s office or how to confront the Centre, Arvind Kejriwal’s Three Musketeers—Chetan Sanghi, Rajendra Kumar and S N Sahai—are running the show in Delhi. They follow the AAP government’s directions to the letter. Sources say Kewal Kumar Sharma is Chief Secretary only on paper, and his wings have been clipped and his powers have been withdrawn by the Delhi government.
Chetan Sanghi, a 1988-batch IAS officer and former chief secretary of Puducherry, was transferred to Delhi in May. He applied for Central deputation and was made Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development, but refused to join. Sanghi is in charge of three vital departments: the Public Works Department, Urban Development and Industries. He is also the director of Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd and also heads the most controversial department in the AAP government, the Vigilance Department. Sanghi is also framing the policy for the conversion of industrial plots in the city from leasehold to freehold. Sources say it was on Sanghi’s advice that Kejriwal ordered the reopening of the probe into the Rs 100 crore CNG fitness scam case that took place during Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s tenure. This has led to major confrontation between Jung and Kejriwal for last four months after the LG sought the Centre’s opinion on the AAP government’s decision to probe the CNG fitness scam.
In 2012, the Anti-Corruption Bureau found that Delhi government had lost over Rs 100 crore by awarding the contract to operate and maintain the certification of CNG vehicles at the transport authority in Burari to ESP India Pvt Ltd instead of ESP USA.
Earlier, in a bid to take control of New Delhi Municipal Council under the Ministry of Urban Development, Kejriwal had suggested Sanghi’s name as its head. The Centre refused and appointed 1987-batch officer Naresh Kumar.
Kejriwal’s second musketeer is Rajendra Kumar, a 1989-batch IAS officer. He is secretary to the chief minister and guides the AAP government regarding Transaction of Business Rules. According to sources, Kejriwal takes Kumar’s advice on every issue related to governance. Kumar heads the Services Department and has a major say in the transfer and posting of officials. His primary task is to keep a tag on the work of Delhi bureaucrats and DANICS officers. He also advises Kejriwal in matters related to Delhi Police and the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
On September 9, Kumar issued a transfer order of IAS officer Gitanjali Gupta after Kejriwal was unhappy with her for not compiling with transport minister Gopal Rai’s directions of issuing notification of increasing taxes for purchasing vehicles by private companies without getting the approval from the LG. Gupta was transferred to Controller of Examination of DSSSB.
S N Sahai, a 1986-batch IAS officer, has been made head of Finance, Development, Planning and Home departments for being loyal to Kejriwal. Sahai had earlier served in the Prime Minister Office during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime.
Last year, The Sunday Standard had rated the officer as the upcoming most powerful bureaucrat of Delhi. Known for expediting projects and taking strong decisions on policy matters, Sahai is the most sought after officer by the AAP government. An IIM alumni, he was on Central deputation at Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd for five years before joining the city administration.
He had vociferously supported the concept of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which was recently scrapped by the AAP government. Now, Sahai has convinced Kejriwal to come up with better BRT routes in Delhi.
Two months ago, Delhi government issued a circular stating there is no need to send files related to Cabinet notes to the Chief Secretary. If department heads have any doubts, they can discuss it with ministers, it stated. Differences between the CM and Chief Secretary K K Sharma over removing IAS officers Dharampal and Arvind Ray as Principal Secretary (Home) have widened. The confrontation started over Sharma not sending the file of transfers and postings of 10 Delhi Police officers on May 6 to Kejriwal. The CM issued a showcause notice to Sharma, who went on leave for 10 days. The AAP Cabinet took decisions to set up a Commission of Inquiry in the CNG fitness scam case and hiked the pay of DANICS officers without intimating Sharma. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia has been holding weekly meetings with heads of departments instead of the Chief Secretary. About 50 to 60 per cent of files are not being routed through the Chief Secretary. A close associate of the CM said this was being done to decentralise day-to-day functioning of the administration.