Najeeb Jung quits

The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, has done what many think he should have done long ago. He has decided to call it a day and demit his office. An appointee of the previous Congress Government headed by Sheila Dixit, Jung endeared himself to the BJP Government with great aplomb and embarked on the path of a running battle with the elected government of Delhi, headed by Arvind Kejriwal. He chose to confront the Union Territory Government all along the line, rescinding almost every administrative decision taken by Kejriwal. Jung contended – and to be fair to him his contention was upheld by the Supreme Court – that “in respect of the National Capital Territory of Delhi the Government means the Lieutenant Governor.”

That might have been the position, going strictly by the letter of the law. But in politics and statecraft, Constitution and law apart, there is such a thing as public perception. And that perception was very different from that of the Lieutenant Governor or his appointee the Union Government. The electorate of Delhi asked the simple question, if a government commanding an overwhelming majority in the Legislature (67 in a House of 70) had no powers and all powers were vested in the LG, then what was the rationale of having a Legislature and a Council of Ministers at huge public expense. Jung has left but this question remains and will continue to remain till the spheres of power exercisable by the elected government and the appointed LG are settled once for all.

The BJP has also much to explain. Earlier, while in the opposition, the party used to demand full statehood for Delhi. But once it came to power at the Centre it quietly dropped that demand and instead started using the LG to obstruct the elected government of Delhi at every step. There have been corruption allegations against the AAP Government. Even assuming the allegations are true, the remedy lay in ordering a probe. Corruption charges against State Governments are nothing new. But that does not warrant the Centre to use the Governor for obstructing the day-to-day functioning of an elected government, If, indeed, the government in the Union Territory of Delhi does not enjoy any powers and all powers lie with the LG, then the obvious course is to abolish the legislature and the council of ministers so that public money is not wasted on an institution which is only a costly non-entity. Sooner or letter the powers of Delhi Governor vis-à-vis the LG will have to be defined.

Sunday, 25 December, 2016