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How The Modi Government Turned Arvind Kejriwal's Office Into A Ghost Town

08/07/2016 3:32 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - JULY 31: Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally of auto drivers at the Ramlila Maidan on July 31, 2014 in New Delhi, India. In efforts to woo its traditional support base ahead of possible assembly elections in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party come in support grievances of auto drivers and promised to solve them if his party returns to power. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's office has eight staffers, two of whom are Bibhav Kumar, his private secretary, and Rohit Pandey, his personal assistant. The other six staffers make up his official secretariat. Dr Vasanthakumar, one of his additional secretaries is on study leave. Of the remaining five, his principal secretary Rajinder Kumar is in jail. His deputy secretary Tarun Sharma is also behind bars. His additional secretary Geetika Sharma is on her way to the Andamans after she received transfer orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the same day as the arrests of Rajinder Kumar and Tarun Sharma. This leaves us with two staffers, Deepak Virmani, who understandably fears either an arrest or a transfer, and Aswathi Muralidharan, who is an appointee co-terminus with the current Chief Minister and therefore cannot be transferred by the Home Ministry.

Anyone who continues to believe that this is about one allegedly corrupt officer is either kidding themselves or is part of Modi's propaganda machinery.

On the third floor of the Delhi Secretariat, which houses the Government of the NCT of Delhi, is the office of the Chief Minister -- Arvind Kejriwal. On the right of his personal chambers is the office of his principal secretary; the two offices on the left are those of his deputy and additional secretaries. The three office cabins surrounding the Chief Minister's own room were vacated three days ago due to the aforementioned arrests and transfers. Anyone who continues to believe that this is about one allegedly corrupt officer is either kidding themselves or is part of Narendra Modi's propaganda machinery.

On the very day that the CBI and the Home Ministry carried out this evacuation of the Chief Minister's office, Delhi's Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra was called in for questioning by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). The reason to call him in was most bizarre. Kapil, who happens to be the chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board, had filed a complaint against Sheila Dikshit and others over an alleged tanker scam that is said to have taken place in the previous Congress government. The ACB, which was once under the control of the Delhi government, was taken over by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs last June. Since then, all the investigations that were being pursued by the Delhi government have not moved. The ACB is accusing Kapil Mishra of "sitting" on the case and are attempting to frame him as an accused in the scam. Not once has the ACB called in Sheila Dikshit or her associates in the previous government, and nor has there been any real investigation into the scam. The only focus now appears to be to frame Kapil Mishra, the original complainant, as the kingpin and mastermind.

What is this if not an attempt to paralyze and destabilize the Delhi government?

A total of 11 senior officers have been transferred out of Delhi, along with additional secretary Geetika Sharma. Officers working in flagship projects of the AAP government, such as CCTVs in schools, redevelopment of jhuggi jhopri clusters, etc. have been transferred out. Not even Delhi's chief secretary was consulted by the Ministry of Home Affairs before going ahead with such a major administrative reshuffle, let alone Delhi's elected Chief Minister. The strange result of the Centre's actions has been that the Andaman Islands, which had 24 sanctioned posts for Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) officers now has 31 officers and Delhi which has 309 sanctioned posts, now has only 165. What is this if not an attempt to paralyze and destabilize the Delhi government?

In most sections of the media, only the arrest of Rajinder Kumar has been covered prominently. This coverage has presented the arrest as an isolated and routine incident where an allegedly corrupt babu was nabbed for corruption. But neither is this about corruption and nor is this an isolated incident. A party born from an anti-corruption movement should have no business defending an officer accused of corruption, but it is beyond doubt that Rajinder Kumar is being scapegoated in order to clip the wings of Arvind Kejriwal, a politician who has the rare distinction of a clean record when it comes to corruption.

The Aam Aadmi Party has a good chance of forming the government in Punjab in a few months, and is making the BJP lose its sleep in Goa. A party that was thought to be a regional player and a "Delhi phenomenon" is successfully expanding, and expanding fast. With the Congress having vacated the Opposition space, the rise of a credible and strong leader like Arvind Kejriwal is a major threat to Narendra Modi, and he recognises that. Repeated attempts at arresting our MLAs, officers and using various intimidation tactics only make the party's resolve to provide a real, clean alternative to the people of India stronger than ever.

In one go, the Modi government has destroyed the Delhi Chief Minister's office. The next time you wonder why Arvind Kejriwal takes on Narendra Modi so directly and vigorously, imagine half of your colleagues being taken away to Tihar and some more transferred to the Andamans. Perhaps, you will then begin to see Arvind Kejriwal as a man of patience.

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