Yet another Delhi-Centre face-off builds up as civil servants stop work in protest. Chief secretary Anshu Prakash meets Lt governor and home minister; AAP accuses him of using ‘casteist’ slur.
New Delhi: The capital plunged into a constitutional crisis on Tuesday as a large number of civil servants stopped work in protest against an alleged assault by some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators on Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash at chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence past midnight. Prakash was “assaulted” after he reportedly refused to answer “why more money was not being spent on issuing advertisements”. As the incident turned into a political slugfest, the AAP, in turn, accused Prakash of using ‘casteist’ language against its MLA who were questioning him about problems in doorstep delivery of rations and exclusion of 2.5 lakh people from the delivery system.
Delhi: Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash’s complaint letter to Police over yesterday’s incident pic.twitter.com/zvdsNGatIN
— ANI (@ANI) February 20, 2018
Following the meeting at Kejriwal’s residence in which he was allegedly “kicked and punched”, Prakash went straight to the residence of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to complain about the “misconduct and abuse” by AAP legislators Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal. In the morning as word about the assault spread, representatives of the IAS officers association met Baijal to demand that a First Information Report be registered and the accused be arrested. Jarwal later tweeted that he had filed a complaint withe the SC/ST commission.
We have lodged a complaint with SC/ST Commission against the casteist comments made by the Delhi Chief Secretary: Prakash Jarwal,AAP MLA pic.twitter.com/ujNy1LMya4
— ANI (@ANI) February 20, 2018
Speaking to reporters after meeting Baijal, secretary of IAS Officers’ Association Manisha Saxena said: “(Anshu Prakash) was called alone for the meeting at midnight. The chief minister, deputy chief minister and 10-12 MLAs were present.”
“As far as IAS and DANICS associations are concerned, there is not going to be any strike. We will continue to work for the welfare of Delhi’s public, but we will work with a black badge. We have expressed deep concern to the L-G on the incident on Monday night. We hope the L-G will take strong action. There is a criminal conspiracy to assault Delhi’s chief secretary,” she added.
The association also tweeted that the physical assault had taken place “”in presence and with consent of CM & Dy CM.” It said in the assault he was “held by his collar” and abused and his glasses also broke.
Strongly condemn the assault on Chief Secretary, Delhi. It's a criminal, cowardly & deplorable act and an assault on the Constitution. We stand by our colleagues in Delhi and demand immediate arrest of the perpetrators of such shameful act.
— IAS Association (@IASassociation) February 20, 2018
Prakash also later met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and complained to him about the alleged assault. Meanwhile, in the Delhi secretariat some officials reportedly ‘surrounded and manhandled” AAP minister Imran Hussain and Delhi Dialogue Commission chairperson Ashish Khetan while protesting against the incident. The two are also learnt to have filed a police complaint.
The incident has once again brought the legislative versus bureaucracy tussle in Delhi to the fore. D.N. Singh, a DANICS officer and a member of the Delhi Government Employees Welfare Association, was quoted as saying that this was a constitutional crisis. “If the chief secretary can be attacked, we are not safe.”
The incident also evoked a strong political response. The Aam Aadmi Party denied the allegations of assault against its MLAs and termed them “bizarre”.
AAP MLA files counter complaint against Prakash
Jarwal, the AAP MLA from Devli, also lodged a cross-complaint against Prakash with the L-G’s office and the Delhi Police commissioner accusing him of using derogatory language against him and MLA Ajay Dutt when they asked him about problems in ration delivery.
Party spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj accused the chief secretary of “doing this at the behest of the Centre”. He claimed that in the meeting, Prakash told the MLAs that he was not answerable to them and was only answerable to the L-G. “The allegation of physical manhandling are completely baseless and bizarre,” he said.
AAP also issued a statement on the episode saying the entire meeting was about the ration distribution issue and did not pertain to the advertisement row as was being claimed.
AAP's response to false allegations by Chief Secretary
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) February 20, 2018
‘Why didn’t Prakash dial 100 if he was assaulted?’
Party MLA Amanatullah Khan, who has been accused of manhandling Prakash, too, denied the allegations. Khan said it was at the instance of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is ruling at the Centre, that the chief secretary had made these allegations against AAP MLAs. “Why did he not dial 100 if there was an assault?” he said.
Khan said the issue was of doorstep delivery of ration and that he and other MLAs like Ajay Rath raised the issue as it concerned people’s welfare. He said the chief secretary said he was not answerable to us and left the meeting on his own and later levelled the allegations at the instance of the BJP, which quickly latched on to the issue to attack the ruling party.
Denying that he had manhandled Prakash, Khan said similar allegations of manhandling were also levelled by BJP leader in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta soon after MPs, Delhi state office-bearers and MLAs of the opposition party had a meeting with the chief minister at his residence on the sealing issue on January 30. Subsequently, four AAP MLAs were booked for assaulting Gupta and BJP mayors during the meeting which had ended in chaos.
Gupta, meanwhile, tweeted that the incident was related to AAP’s demand for release of more advertisements and that nine party MLAs were present at the meeting.
CM @ArvindKejriwal in his dictatorial style called Chief Secretary at 12 midnight & berated him in front of his MLAs. Drunk on power CM was concerned about why not more funds were dispersed for advertisements. Such is the state of affairs under AAP. @HMOIndia @LtGovDelhi
— Vijender Gupta (@Gupta_vijender) February 20, 2018
Khan no stranger to controversies
Khan, incidentally, is no stranger to allegations of muscle flexing. In the past, too, he has been accused of assault. On May 31, 2017, he was among the four AAP MLAs who were accused by sacked party minister Kapil Mishra of assaulting him inside the Delhi Assembly
Prior to this, in May last year, Khan had accused AAP founder leader Kumar Vishwas of being a BJP-RSS agent. Thereafter, on Vishwas threatening to quit the party, he was suspended from the party. However, as Vishwas was given charge of Rajasthan and the situation calmed down, Khan was officially “reinstated”.
The BJP termed the alleged assault a “shameful” act. Its Delhi unit president Manoj Tiwari tweeted: “Arvind Kejriwal and his goon MLAs misbehaved and threatened the Chief secretary of NCT Delhi Government last night… another shameful act of Aam Aadmi Party Goons…”
The Congress also took strong exception to the alleged assault on the senior bureaucrat. Its Delhi unit president Ajay Maken said “AAP has proved completely that it does not know how to rule. This was an experiment that has failed. The party had zero delivery and has not taken to assaulting officers. We urge the Lieutenant Governor to probe why the officer was called so late in the night.
He also tweeted that Kejriwal should apologise.
Kejriwal should apologise for this hooliganism which took place before him-
AAP Govt is unable to deliver-Beating of Chief Secretary by MLAs in front of CM is another low & is aimed to divert attention from Govt failures!
AAP does not know Governance and has failed miserably😡
— Ajay Maken (@ajaymaken) February 20, 2018
Former Congress minister Haroon Yusuf charged that similar “assaults” had taken place on other officers like K.K. Sharma earlier, adding that AAP had lost the moral right to rule the capital city.
Giving his view on the incident, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said: “We condemn physical violence against the chief secretary. A constitutional crisis has gripped Delhi. It is for the first time that we have heard that the CM abused the CS and at his instance the MLAs attacked him.”
He claimed that “anarchy and AAP have become synonymous. We used to call it the accusing and abusing party but now it has stepped beyond. It has nothing to do with the constitution now.”
Patra said “internal sources are telling us that the assault had nothing to do with any issue of public interest. The issue was about spending more funds on promoting Arvind Kejriwal to which the chief secretary had objected saying that the Supreme Court had noted that beyond a point public money cannot be spent on such advertisements. This agitated Kejriwal who wanted the CS to ignore the SC guidelines and then he abused the chief secretary in Hindi. Thereafter some MLAs got up and they rained blows on him.”