Kejriwal's arrest: Decade-long AAP-BJP tussle reaches its crescendo

The decade-long rivalry between the AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal and the BJP ruling at the Centre reached a crescendo on Thursday with the arrest of the Delhi chief minister by the ED in an excise policy-linked money laundering case.
DL CM A Kejriwal
DL CM A Kejriwal

New Delhi | The decade-long rivalry between the AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal and the BJP ruling at the Centre reached a crescendo on Thursday with the arrest of the Delhi chief minister by the ED in an excise policy-linked money laundering case.

The tussle between the two sides began with their almost simultaneous rise to power with the BJP led by Narendra Modi receiving a massive mandate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the AAP forming the government in Delhi with a historic victory a year later by winning 67 assembly seats out of 70.

Even before this, Kejriwal, after a brief stint as chief minister of Delhi in 2013, challenged Modi in a much publicised contest from Varanasi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, setting the stage for a rivalry that has continued over the years.

Speaking in Delhi Assembly in February this year, Kejriwal, who is also the AAP national convener, asserted that the AAP is "the biggest threat" to the BJP and vowed to liberate the country from it in the 2029 Lok Sabha polls.

The confrontations between the Kejriwal government and the Centre over governance related matters assumed political overtones and blame-game with both the AAP and the BJP joining their respective sides.

The Aam Aadmi Party dispensation since coming to power in Delhi in 2015 has been involved in frequent run-ins with the office of lieutenant governor.

It began with the Kejriwal government confronting the then Lt Governor Najeeb Jung over the issues of control over Anti Corruption Branch, transfer and posting of senior officers, and movement of official files, just after coming to power.

The AAP vociferously attacked Jung, who formed a three-member committee headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General of India V K Shunglu to look into 400 files of the Delhi government.

Another controversy erupted when Jung appointed an IAS officer chief secretary who was asked by Kejriwal not to take charge and even locked his office over the matter.

The tussle between the AAP dispensation and the LG office continued even after Jung resigned in December 2016 and former Union home secretary Anil Baijal replaced him.

Baijal's more than five-year tenure as Delhi LG witnessed numerous face-offs, the most remarkable being Chief Minister Kejriwal accompanied by his cabinet colleagues staging a dharna inside Raj Niwas in 2018, alleging that city bureaucrats were not listening to the ministers.

The AAP dispensation also clashed with Baijal over appointment of special public prosecutors for trial of cases related to Delhi riots in 2020 and anti-CAA protests.

In July 2021, the then deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia objected to Baijal holding meetings with officers and instructing them on works that directly came under the purview of the elected government.

A more bitter face-off ensued after incumbent Lt Governor V K Saxena took charge in May 2022.

Within two months, Saxena recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities and procedural lapses in formulation and execution of the Kejriwal government's excise policy 2021-22.

This opened up an altogether new chapter of fraught relations between the AAP dispensation and the other side, with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arresting Sisodia and party MP Sanjay Singh in connection with the alleged liquor scam.

After the ED's summonses to Kejriwal in connection with the excise policy linked money laundering case and also in a separate case related to Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the AAP has sharpened its attack on the BJP and its government at the Centre.

The AAP leadership has accused the BJP of trying to break the party by sending the Delhi chief minister behind the bars and toppling his government in Delhi.

The BJP, on the other hand, is having a field day slamming AAP and Kejriwal over alleged corruption in the Delhi government.

The Delhi LG empowered by implementation of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act in August 2023, has assumed a more proactive role in governance related matters evoking strong protests by the Kejriwal government and AAP.

The power tussle between the Kejriwal government and the Centre has its genesis in a notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in May 2015, stipulating Delhi LG will have jurisdiction in services, public order, police and land matters.

The notification paved the way for a long legal battle between the two sides in the Delhi High Court as well as the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on May 11, 2023, ruled in favour of the Delhi government extending its executive powers over the services matters involving transfer and posting of senior officers.

Within days of SC verdict, the BJP-led Centre brought an ordinance that was later on turned into an Act restoring power balance in favour of its representative LG.

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