The Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party government continue to fight over control of Delhi even as the state reels from the devastation wrought by COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the Centre notified the amended Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, under which Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal is now the ‘government’ in Delhi.
The L-G wants the AAP to hand over executive power to him, while the elected government wants to continue to govern Delhi.
Sources said that after getting the status of Delhi ‘government’, Baijal called a meeting on Thursday morning to review the COVID-19 situation. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and Health Minister Satyendar Jain were among those invited to attend the meeting. But the meeting could not take place due to Kejriwal’s absence.
Meanwhile, the CM issued directions to officials for a separate meeting in the afternoon. The L-G was not invited to attend that meeting.
After the meeting, Kejriwal said the government will set up centres on a large scale to vaccinate all eligible people in the next three months. The CM also tweeted: “Had a meeting with officials on vaccination drive in Delhi. Prepared a plan to vaccinate all above 18 years in the next 3 months. We will set up vaccination centres on a large scale. All eligible people must come forward to get vaccinated.”
In another incident, Baijal asked Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev to provide him with a status report on preparations for the vaccination drive starting from May 1. The chief minister’s office, instead of providing the report directly to Baijal, shared a press release of the information sought by the L-G.
The L-G had no idea about the press conference and press release to be held. In the press meet, Jain said that Delhi did not have enough vaccines to start the drive on May 1.
The Delhi government meanwhile denied reports that it had allocated 100 rooms in Ashoka Hotel for high court judges and judicial officers of the court. The order was withdrawn after the Delhi HC reprimanded the government. Sources said the order was issued without the knowledge of the chief minister or the deputy chief minister.
AAP legislator Rajesh Gupta said the order had come from the L-G. But a tweet from the L-G’s office clarified that Baijal was not aware of the order and he had nothing to do with it.
On oxygen supply as well, the AAP and the L-G are making different requests to the central government. Delhi’s oxygen quota was increased by the central government at the request of the L-G. The deputy CM wrote a different letter to Union Minister Piyush Goyal seeking to increase the oxygen quota.
Sources claimed that the Centre was taking requests for Delhi from the L-G now and not dealing with the elected government. That is why despite several requests of the Delhi government, the central government is not paying heed.
“At the time of the pandemic, instead of saving people, the central and Delhi government are indulging in a fight. They are also up against each other in Delhi’s High Court and the Supreme Court. The Centre brought a law and suddenly gave power to the L-G at a time when the pandemic was creating havoc. This is not acceptable. Similarly, now the Delhi government’s so-called non-cooperation movement is not acceptable. They are standing on piles of dead bodies and doing politics,” said Anil Kumar, a professor at the Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi.
Political experts believe that this political war will increase in the coming days. While the AAP government is the elected government, the L-G has constitutional powers to run the state.