Kejriwal, focus on governance

It’s tempting to see the now resigned Delhi Law Minister Jitendra Singh Tomar arrest as another skirmish in the ugly turf war between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung. The arrest came about in the middle of a tussle over control of the Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB). First, the Delhi government made a too smart move of importing a set of police officers from AAP-friendly Nitish Kumar’s Bihar for the anti-graft cell. Then on Tuesday, the L-G staged a counter coup, posting a Delhi Police officer as the ACB chief. Almost simultaneously, the Delhi Police, which reports to the L-G, delivered another blow by arresting Tomar over his allegedly fake degrees. Predictably, the Kejriwal government cried ‘conspiracy’, accusing the BJP-led government at the Centre of creating an emergency-like situation in Delhi.
But the Aam Aadmi Party might be protesting a bit too much. Arguably, the police could have chosen to ask the minister to join the investigation rather than arrest him first. But Kejriwal’s own role in handling the Tomar affair is perhaps more questionable.

The allegation that Tomar had enrolled himself as a lawyer on the basis of a fake degree surfaced a few days before the Assembly elections. May be this was too late in the day to cancel his nomination, but the least that Kejriwal could have done was to keep him out of his cabinet. However, just as the BJP hung on to its Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani after a somewhat similar charge over her academic qualifications, the AAP continued with Tomar. Kejriwal should have known better. After all, fighting corruption is a major plank of his party. Remember, the AAP ‘sacrificed’ its previous 49-day government over its failure to table the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill in the Assembly. His government encourages sting operations against corrupt officials. Only recently, it ‘reopened’ a probe into the 2002 ‘scam’ over fitness certificates for CNG vehicles. True, Tomar should not be presumed guilty till the verdict is in. But has Kejriwal’s own party every allowed that luxury to its rivals?

At this stage, all that the Delhi Police can be faulted for is overzealousness – perhaps a result of the Kejriwal-Jung conflict. But if Tomar really is a ‘casualty’ of the crossfire, then he is not the only one. The latest victims are Delhi’s Home Secretary and the new ACB chief. The CM doesn’t want them, the LG wants them to stay put. While Kejriwal and Jung continue with their jurisdictional battle, the least they could do is come up with some rules of warfare to limit collateral damage on Delhi’s bureaucracy.

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