Najib Jung: The New Power Player on the Capital Circuit
By Tarun Nangia - NEW DELHI
Published: 09th Feb 2014 08:40:56 AM
It is a battle of files between two former bureaucrats—one an ex-IAS officer and the other who quit the IRS. The former is the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, while the latter is its Chief Minister. The strategic warfare between the soft spoken, nattily dressed theatre loving Najib Jung and the hectoring, muffler sporting and drama obsessed Arvind Kejriwal has escalated to open warfare. Years after Jagmohan retired from in 1982 from the colonial era Raj Niwas in North Delhi’s leafy Civil Lines, no other occupant has become a major political player in Delhi like Jung.
The latest controversy is over the Lt Governor seeking Attorney General Mohan Parasharan’s opinion on the constitutionality of Kejriwal’s AAP government tabling the Jan Lok pal Bill, which the chief minister has promised to launch with much fanfare at Ramlila Maidan. AAP called Jung a “Congress agent.” Referring to the communication between Jung and Parasaran, AAP leader Ashutosh told media that when anything from AAP government goes to LG, parts of it become public via the media.
Because Delhi is a Union Territory, all bills tabled in Delhi assembly are by convention sent to the Home Ministry for approval before being tabled in the state assembly. The AAP led government doesn’t, however, agree. Media leaks exposed the opinion of the Solicitor General’s office that introducing a bill directly assembly would be ‘unconstitutional’. Ashutosh questions whether the “LG’s office is involved in the leak”.
“Just like you had sought the opinion of the Solicitor General, the Delhi government has also sought an opinion from three noted lawyers and a former chief justice. All these four experts are of the opinion that the union home ministry order is unconstitutional. Their names are: Justice Mukul Mudgal, Mr PV Kapoor, Mr KN Bhat and Mr Pinaki Mishra. After getting their opinion, the Delhi cabinet in its meeting on February 3, 2014, passed a resolution recommending that the home ministry should withdraw its order and till such time decided not to accept it,” said Kejriwal in a letter written to Jung.
However, Mishra and Mudgal denied being consulted.
AAP’s main worry is that clearance of the bill from the central government could take a long time, which the AAP can ill afford since it has promised to get the Janlokpal bill passed within fifteen days of coming to power; that deadline is already over.
Though Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor is appointed by the Centre, Jung’s background as an eminent academician and a prominent member of Delhi’s Muslim community is seen as a Congress attempt to woo both the minorities and its urban base.
In the ongoing saga between AAP and the UPA government, this is not the first time Jung is playing a key role in a political situation. Two weeks ago, he resorted to parantha diplomacy to dissuade a perennially coughing Arvind Kejriwal to end his wintry dharna outside Rail Bhawan demanding suspension of two policemen. Jung sent hot “parathas” to the chief minister through AAP leader Yogendra Yadav with the conciliatory offer that the cops would be sent on leave if the CM ended his protest. Kejriwal, aware that the Republic Day parade was approaching and in all likelihood would be evicted by the Indian Army, hastily accepted the offer as a face saving device. That round went to Jung.
The Delhi LG, not the person to be sitting behind the high aloof walls of LG’s office is known for his eye for detail. His nature of being particular and reading files comes from being a career bureaucrat. He is known to be approachable and actively engages in solving any impasse and ever ready to give a patient ear, to various delegations including those of Congress, BJP which visit him. Delhi CM Kejriwal too has had fairly long discussions on the Janlokpal bill with him.
When Delhi CM Kejriwal recently said that licenses of private power distribution companies would be cancelled if they resort to power cuts, Jung called Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) chief PD Sudhakar for a meeting. This shows his quality of not being a governor who is aloof, but a governor who actively engages and tries to find a solution to any situation or eventuality that the state government faces.
Seen as an official who goes by the rulebook, Jung had recommended President’s rule in Delhi with the assembly being kept in suspended animation after the assembly elections gave a hung verdict. The 62 year old Jung’s academic record shows that he is nobody’s unthinking lackey; the masters in history from Delhi University, and the MA from the London School of Economics in social policy and planning in developing countries earned by the Lieutenant Governor would give him the necessary perspective to handle tricky political situat ions with significant social overtones as in AAP’s case. The Bill controversy is just the beginning.