R Srinivasan

Mockery of democracy

R Srinivasan | Updated on January 24, 2018

Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung

The crisis in Delhi is more than constitutional

The situation in Delhi has gone from farcical to critical. On Wednesday, Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, who has been living up to his name (‘jung’ means ‘war’ in Urdu) as far as his dealings with the ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP) government in Delhi is concerned, made perhaps the most astonishing claim made by anyone who has ever held a gubernatorial position in India: he claimed that (the presence of an elected legislature and chief minister in Delhi notwithstanding) he was the ‘government’!

“The constitutionally valid and consistent definition of ‘government’ is the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi appointed by the President under Article 239 and designated as such under Article 239 AA of the Constitution,” he wrote in a letter cancelling the AAP administration’s appointment of Swati Maliwal as head of the Delhi Commission for Women, the latest in a series of such actions by him nullifying orders of the elected government. The legal validity of such a claim apart, Jung’s statement raises a fundamental question: if he is indeed the ‘government’, then why was time and money wasted in establishing an elected government in Delhi? The conflict between the elected State government and the Centre (represented in proxy by Jung) has now escalated to dangerous proportions, with AAP workers and Delhi Police (controlled by the Union home ministry) clashing violently, and AAP even accusing the police of trying to kill the deputy chief of its State unit!

The implications of such a breakdown of trust are dangerous. The ruling BJP, which is tacitly encouraging Jung’s actions, is also playing with fire by doing so. Allowing the AAP to implode through its own actions would have set it up nicely for the next elections. Instead, it has given Arvind Kejriwal, a mass politician whose skills easily match those of Narendra Modi, an external enemy to focus attention on.

Even if it succeeds in forcing the AAP government to a standstill, or even better, into quitting and calling for fresh elections, the BJP is unlikely to make any gains from this. The AAP-Jung war is no longer a sideshow. It is a grave test of our democratic values itself.

Senior Associate Editor

Published on July 22, 2015

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