New Delhi, June 12 (PTI): Taking his fight literally to the doorstep of the lieutenant governor, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues dug in their heels on Tuesday and did not leave his office where they have been camping since Monday evening, even as health minister Satyendar Jain began an indefinite hunger strike to press for their demands.
The AAP government’s demands include a direction to IAS officers to end their “strike” and action against those who have struck work for “four months”.
The unprecedented move came under severe criticism from the party’s opponents, the BJP and the Congress.
However, the AAP maintained that their fight would continue and they would not get “bogged down” till their demands were met. The party also plans to take the protest a step further as it has decided that all its MLAs will march to the L-G’s office on Wednesday.
Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, development minister Gopal Rai and Jain met Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal at 5.30 pm on Monday and have since stayed on. After spending the entire night in the anteroom of the L-G’s office, Kejriwal also released a video on Tuesday and said that the AAP ministers had “no option” but to stage a sit-in as the Lt Governor was not paying heed to the Delhi government’s demands “despite several requests”.
In a tweet, Kejriwal also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I am really appalled at LG’s stubborn refusal to end IAS strike and his justifications for ongoing strike. Wonder what are PMO’s instructions to him,” he said.
It was the first time in the history of Delhi that the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues spent the night at the L-G’s office to press for their demands, officials said.
After spending the entire night at L-G’s office, in the morning Kejriwal tweeted, “Satyender Jain starts indefinite fast”. Jain began his fast at the L-G’s office at 11 am.
The L-G, however, did not turn up in his office on Tuesday.
On Monday night, the chief minister, who is a diabetic, had to take insulin during the sit-in and got “specific food” from his home, sources said. “My dear Delhiites, good morning. Struggle continues,” Kejriwal tweeted at 6.27 am from the L-G’s office.
A number of AAP MLAs, party leaders and workers have also camped near the L-G’s office and the police have barricaded the area.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari took to social media to criticise Kejriwal, saying “Making mockery of Democracy, No Work only Drama (sic)”. He said “A new film of chief minister is running in Delhi. Its title is ‘Chahe Kuch Karlo, Hum Nahin Sudharenge’ (Do whatever you wish, We will not change).”
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said, “Is it not Kaliyug, that a chief minister whose attendance at Delhi Assembly is just 10 per cent and who does not go to his office is complaining of non-cooperation of IAS officers.”
Earlier in the video statement released by him, Kejriwal said that the AAP ministers staged a sit-in for the people of Delhi so that their work did not get affected. According to the AAP government, officers have not been attending meetings with the ministers and not picking up their calls due to which the people’s work was suffering.
Officers have gone on a “partial strike” since the alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash on the intervening night of February 19-20, it said. In the video message, Kejriwal said that he and his ministers have been requesting the L-G since February 23 to issue directions to the IAS officers to end their “strike”, but the Lt Governor was not paying heed to their demands.
“Yesterday, we again met him (Baijal) and told him that he will go from here (L-G office) only after getting our demands fulfilled,” he said.
The chief minister said, “We are not sitting here for ourselves, but we are sitting here for you (Delhiites) and for schools, water, mohalla clinics so that the people of Delhi could get facilities.”Kejriwal alleged that some of the officers told him that the L-G’s office was “orchestrating” the “officers’ strike” that is why the Lt Governor does not want bureaucrats to end their strike, a charge which was slammed by the L-G’s office.
The L-G’s office said it was one more “dharna without reason”.
A statement, issued by Baijal’s office on Monday evening, stated that the L-G was “threatened” to summon officers and issue directions to them to end their “strike” immediately. In the morning, a letter, signed by Kejriwal, Sisodia, Rai and Jain, was sent to Baijal, asking him to take all necessary steps to end the “strike” by the IAS officers, including issuing written orders, that all those officers who do not return to work will be proceeded against and “if necessary, ESMA may be invoked”.
However, the officers association has claimed that no officer is on strike and no work has been affected. Delhi’s bureaucrats took a step forward on Tuesday after they used social media to counter the AAP government’s allegations that IAS officers were on a “strike”, creating the hashtag “#Delhiatwork NoToStrike” to list the recent work done by them and stress the point that they were all at work.
The AAP government and the bureaucracy have been at loggerheads since the alleged assault on the chief secretary by AAP MLAs at Kejriwal’s residence on the intervening night of February 19-20.