Jung Over?

Will Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal relent over the ouster of LG Najeeb Jung

By Anil Anand

The appointment or removal of a Governor/ Lt Governor in the normal course is not something that hogs headlines or strongly reflects on the political counters of a state or a Union Territory. However, sudden decision of Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to put in his papers has certainly created an upheaval of the same dimension as his presence in Raj Niwas had been raking-up past two years.

Ironically, Jung was an appointee of the former Congress-led UPA Government and was said to be a personal choice of the then chief minister Sheila Dikshit. The bureaucrat turned corporate honcho ultimately becoming Lt Governor was equally at ease dealing with new BJP-led dispensation at the Centre. There had been instances in the past where Governors or Lt Governors appointed by one regime did strongly survive with the change of governments at the Centre but Jung’s case is in a different league and one of its own kinds.

The different from the past in his case was that he was to deal with a new political experiment that strode to power with an overwhelming majority not seen in Delhi before. And not only that the Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal sought to use its brute majority to seek more constitutional and administrative powers through a confrontationist attitude with the Centre through its representative LG Jung. In the current constitutional scheme of things the balance of power in Delhi is in favour of the LG, he being the direct representative of the Centre.

Credit or discredit to Jung, he steadfastly stood his ground in the face of controversies generated by his indulgence in the administrative matters which was not to the liking of Kejriwal and his team. On the face of it he did not commit any act of impropriety by questioning the route adopted by the AAP government in taking important decisions while skirting the constitutional authority of the Lt Governor. In the similar vein fully empowered by the people’s mandate Kejriwal flexed his muscles demanding more powers rather than try and arrive at a working arrangement with the LG, as previous Chief Ministers belonging to BJP and Congress had done when a different party had ruled at the Centre.

The fact is that neither Jung’s “unceremonious” exit, as Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ajay Maken described it, has not created much public hue and cry nor did it accrue any accolades to Kejriwal. Unfortunately, Jung like former Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, whose name incidentally is among the probable to replace Jung, has emerged a villain even in his voluntary act of relinquishing office.

If Jung’s post-quitting interviews are to be believed he had offered to resign at least twice after Narendra Modi Government came to power but was personally stopped by the Prime Minister to stay put and he agreed. The die seems to have been caste then and there. This agreement would not have arrived at without any preconditions more so with Modi being a hard-task master in political terms.

Jung had only two options both to oblige his new masters and act the way they wished him to act vis-a-vis Kejriwal, or honourably quit. He preferred the first option. Similarly, Kerjriwal also had two options either to thrash out a working relation with the LG or be on course to confrontation riding on his popular mandate. He also chose the latter option. So the battle lines for a confrontation were drawn with Centre acting as a silent spectator.

Despite the fact that Jung has been a careerist it would be wrong to brand him a villain entirely responsible for showdown with Kejriwal. This is another matter that his (Jung’s) style of functioning and Kejriwal’s obduracy suited both well which in turn prolonged the latter’s continuation as LG.

This brings one to important questions whether Jung quitting of his own volition, as he has been claiming, and whether his removal would ease the situation for Delhi to be governed in a better manner. How come Jung suddenly decided to quit when he had already applied for leave from December 25 till the rise of New Year and in all probability was slated to celebrate Christmas and New Year in his Goa abode. Indications are that a phone-call, in between, from the Prime Minister’s Office changed the course of his holiday plan.

If that is true, Jung clearly seemed to have fallen out with the Centre or at least he refused to further toe their line in carrying forward confrontation with Kejriwal to another higher level. Or on the hindsight Jung the man with an intellectual bent of mind must have realised the futility of continuing in the face of growing demands of PMO and Home Ministry and seek solace in academic pursuits.

His exit is certainly not going to ease the situation. The reasons are two-fold. Firstly, the Centre is unlikely to relent on its current line of action which is also clear from the names in circulation to be Jung’s possible successors. Apart from Bassi, who after superannuation was rehabilitated as member UPSC, Puducherry LG Kiran Bedi and former Home Secretary Anil Baijal, apart from some political names of the BJP-RSS variety, seem to be in the reckoning for the LG’s job. All of them are in the same mould as Jung.