Dismemberment. Vivisection. Bleeding by a Thousand Cuts. Hacked. Mutilation. All these words are synonymous and are often associated with gory imagery: One involving some form of violence perpetrated. However, all these words are also the embodiment of the peculiar brand of ‘political violence’ that BJP-led central government has been perpetrating on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi for the past 3 years.
The raging tempest between the elected state government in Delhi and the central government hit a veritable rock-bottom when, on Tuesday, Delhi lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal, on orders of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), sacked 9 advisors of the Delhi government who had, allegedly, been appointed by the AAP to unsanctioned posts.
This is not the first time the central government has acted out of spiteful political vendetta. Be it the motivated hounding of Rajendra Kumar, former principal secretary to the Delhi chief minister, in whose case CBI failed repeatedly, in court, to produce conclusive evidence. Or when Baijal appointed a super-quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (quango) of retired bureaucrats to inspect over 400 files and brought the Delhi government to a virtual standstill. Or when the IAS Association of Delhi, aided and abetted by the powers that be, went on strike and instead of focussing on governance, resorted to acting as the permanent Opposition in residence by stalling work and deploying dilatory tactics.
Understanding political appointees to executive
Since time immemorial, the world over (including in India), during elections, every political party has a core team of professionals, drawn from a variety of fields — journalism, academia, business — who not only support but work on the campaign, raise money, and help in managing elections. Once the party wins and forms the government, a large number of such professionals are assimilated into the new administration. Those selected help implement the executive head of the government’s policy agenda and manage the day-to-day operations of important schemes and departments.
The contention that this politicises policy-making is unfounded and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding. It is the unhindered privilege of the elected government to appoint people who resonate with its ideology and is an essential feature of representative democracy.
Political appointees work to translate the political vision of the party into tangible frameworks and more often than not, also act as a cogent bridge between the expectations of the political party and the laws, rules and procedures followed by a stolid and status-quoist bureaucracy.
Research shows that political appointees play a crucial role in overcoming bureaucratic lassitude and this can dramatically improve the implementation of critical development programmes. Would it then be right to construe such appointments as an act of politicising policymaking?
First, Baijal's order to remove 9 advisors is on shaky legal ground as the appointments were approved by his predecessor Najeeb Jung.
Second, four of the advisors mentioned in the order have already resigned from the government a long time ago. In fact and funnily enough, one of the advisors mentioned in the list was only appointed for a month, in 2016, and that too at a measly remuneration of ₹1 per month.
Third, all the people mentioned in the order are exemplary experts in their own domain — be it academia or journalism — and their daily inputs to the chief minister and his council have provided unquantifiable impetus to the governance reforms in Delhi.
Even in the BJP-led central government, lateral entries have been made straight into the executive, such as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) and advisors to the prime minister and his Cabinet, in the NITI Aayog, UID, etc. These decisions have met with little or no debate and near universal endorsement.
It is then both duplicitous and baffling that skilled advisors, aligned with the AAP, were sacked unilaterally by the central government citing specious rules.
This tyrannical treatment of AAP by BJP will go down in the annals of history as a case of sour grapes, abuse of power and misuse of constitutional authority, unlike anything seen before. Perhaps this is the “New India” that our Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about? One where the term “co-operative federalism” is a mere witticism meant for morning headlines.
The author works with the AAP and Delhi government on key issues.