Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and three Cabinet colleagues refused to leave the lieutenant-governor’s office for the fifth straight day on Friday, sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end the impasse, and threatened that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would launch a massive signature campaign across the city if its demands were not met.
In a letter and a video message, Kejriwal urged Modi to get what he described as a “strike” by bureaucrats called off. “I have asked the PM, if in his meetings officers don’t show up, will he be able to run the government for a day?” Kejriwal said, adding that he wanted the issue resolved by Sunday in order to attend a meeting with the PM at the Niti Aayog, the government policy think tank.
The chief minister also said his party would lead a protest to Modi’s residence and “get Delhiites to sign a letter to the PM — the target is to get one million signatures.”
Earlier in the day, AAP MP Sanjay Singh met Union home minister Rajnath Singh in an attempt to resolve the crisis. “I narrated to him the problem the Delhi government is facing with IAS officers not attending meetings. Rajnath Singh assured he would take up the matter with L-G Anil Baijal,” Sanjay Singh said.
But high drama continued with four leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) starting a “counter hunger strike” at the Delhi secretariat on Friday, three days after public works department (PWD) minister Satyendar Jain and two days after deputy chief minister Manish Sisoida began their hunger strikes.
While the CM and his ministerial colleagues — Jain, Sisodia and Gopal Rai — are demanding that the L-G directs the Delhi government bureaucrats to get back to work, BJP MP Parvesh Verma and legislators Vijender Gupta, Jagdish Pradhan said they wanted Kejriwal to resume work instead.
On Friday afternoon, four ambulances, a battery of doctors and police were deployed at the L-G’s office. This led to apprehensions in the AAP about Kejriwal and the ministers being evicted from the premises. Sisodia, in a video released by the party, said if there was any attempt to “forcefully stop” their protest, then he and Jain would stop drinking water as well. The ambulances left the spot after about six hours. Kejriwal expressed similar fears, and said in a tweet that “it is just four days” since Jain and Sisodia have not been eating, and that they were feeling fine.
The doctors, who went in to check on the ministers on the insistence of the L-G’s office, said that instead of losing weight, Jain had gained 1.3kg. At least 25 doctors, including a special team of cardiologists, nephrologists, endocrinologists and the medical head of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, were part of the examining team.
Although there was no fresh statement from the L-G office, the IAS?Officers’ Association again denied that they were on strike and maintained they were continuing written communication with the ministers.
The BJP leaders, who have been camping on chairs and mattresses outside the CM’s office at the secretariat since Wednesday, wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to “re-establish” democracy in the national Capital. “Kejriwal and his team are functioning unconstitutionally. They should either return to work or the President should do something to restore democracy,” Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta said.
Congress leader and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit condemned Kejriwal’s protest, saying he doesn’t have an understanding of the Constitution and that full statehood — one of the AAP’s long-standing demands — would need the intervention of Parliament, and not a dharna (sit-in protest).