NEW DELHI: A full-blown war erupted today between Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with both challenging each other's authority over the administration following a bitter confrontation on the appointment of an acting Chief Secretary for 10 days.
Hours after senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin took charge as acting Chief Secretary despite being asked not to do so by Kejriwal, the fight flared up as he shot off a strongly-worded letter to Jung, asking him to work "within the confines" of Constitution and alleging that he was trying to take over the administration.
The Lt Governor hit back at Kejriwal blaming him for the delay in appointment of an acting Chief Secretary and revoked Kejriwal's order transferring Principal Secretary in Services Department Arindam Majumdar, who issued the appointment letter to Gamlin at the instructions from Jung.
Jung had yesterday appointed Gamlin to the post despite strong opposition to her nomination by Kejriwal dispensation which alleged that she had close links with BSES discoms. The 1984-batch officer has, however, denied the charges saying they were baseless.
The AAP government also attacked the BJP accusing it of attempting to stage a coup through the LG.
In his letter to the LG, Kejriwal mentioned about various rules and laid down procedures for governance and said, "Despite such clear procedure, you have opted not to follow the law but have tried to take over government and get the order issued directly by the Principal Secretary (Services) who I believe was intimidated into acting in concert with you.
"I cannot but conclude that this is a thinly disguised attempt to reduce the democratically elected government ineffective and administer the National Capital Territory of Delhi directly."
The Chief Minister said he has sought an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee to apprise him about the issue.
After Kejriwal's letter, Jung said he has "acted fully conscious of his duties and responsibilities under the Constitution of India. Till date not a single action taken by the Lt Governor's Secretariat is in non-conformity with the provisions of the Constitution."
A release issued by Jung's office said the Chief Minister was duly consulted on the issue of appointment of the acting chief secretary and added that the relevant notesheet was in public domain.
The Union Home Ministry, meanwhile, steered clear of the controversy. "The Home Ministry has nothing to do with it. The Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister are competent enough to handle the situation," Union Home Secretary L C Goyal told reporters.
"The delay on the part of the Chief Minister of over 40 hours necessitated a direction from the Lt Governor that orders be issued. It is a given that the office of the Chief Secretary cannot be left vacant. The Chief Secretary is required not just for normal work but for any emergency that may come up," it said.
On AAP government's allegations against Gamlin, it said the Lt Governor's Secretariat regretted the "insinuation" against a respected senior civil servant and the complaint will be examined as per procedure.
About removal of Majumdar, it said the order "does not have the approval of the Lt Governor, who is the Competent Authority to transfer officials of that rank. This order is ab-initio void."
Following LG's rebuttal, Kejriwal took to the twitter and asked "Should a person perceived to be very close to bijli cos be made CS of Del? Shud elected CM have no say in selection? (sic)"
In another post, he alleged that there has been a "huge nexus" between politicians, officers and companies and that AAP government was trying to break that nexus in Delhi. "That's why the whole system (is) opposing."
In the letter to Jung, the Chief Minister said, "I would strongly request you to remain within the confines of the Constitution and the laws relating to Government of NCT of Delhi. You are holding a Constitutional position. Whatever be the political pressure, you have a duty to uphold the Constitution."
Chief Secretary K K Sharma has left for the US on a personal visit due to which the government had to appoint an acting Chief Secretary. Gamlin has been serving as Power Secretary.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the charge of Services department, targeted BJP over the issue.
"The BJP through LG of Delhi has attempted a coup against the democratically elected government of Delhi with highest ever mandate in the history of the state.
"This is for the first time that LG is issuing direct instruction to officers, bypassing the chief ministers and council of ministers," he told PTI.
Earlier in the day, Gamlin took charge as acting Chief Secretary even though Kejriwal sent her a letter asking her not to do so as her appointment was "against" the rules.
Meanwhile, Parimal Rai, who was backed by Kejriwal for the post, declined to become acting Chief Secretary, noting that he respects the Lt Governor's directions.
Yesterday, Gamlin had written a scathing letter to Jung claiming that she was pressured by a senior bureaucrat in CM's office to withdraw from the race.
Jung had also rebutted AAP government's objections over his decision to appoint Gamlin, saying under Article 239 AA of the Constitution of India, the Lt Governor is the representative of State Authority in Delhi.
However, the war of words between Jung and Kejriwal government only intensified.
"The Constitution, GNCT act of Delhi and Transaction of Business Rules clearly define what LG can do. In case of a dispute or difference of opinion between LG and council of ministers, LG could have called the minister concerned to discuss the matter," Sisodia said today.
"Even after that if council of ministers disagreed, he could have referred the matter to the President and his advice could have been conveyed to council of ministers," the Deputy Chief Minister said.
Calling LG's move an act "against the Constitution", Sisodia said, "I was not informed by LG and he does not have power to issue direct instructions to officers. He has clearly acted against the Constitution and laws relevant to Delhi."