In the last few weeks, Delhi has been reduced to a Middle Eastern constitutional monarchy. We have an elected legislature, but the Sultan of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, doesn't bother with it. How to overturn a democratic mandate and govern through unelected officials? The Lieutenant Governor's orders in the last two days can read as an instructions manual.
The L-G has unilaterally transferred key officials from Delhi government's flagship projects in health and education. At a time when Mohalla Clinics and the transformation of government schools has been gaining praise all over the city and the world, Jung has crippled both efforts.
The message to bureaucrats is clear -- if you work with the AAP government, you will either be transferred or sent to jail!
But an even more significant part of his farmaan was the setting up of a committee to look into "irregularities" and fix "civil and criminal liability" into decisions taken by the Delhi government. Take a moment to appreciate the evil genius of the Centre: a committee appointed by the L-G of Delhi is set to victimize officers of Delhi who signed important files pertaining to the Delhi government's schemes. The message to all bureaucrats is clear -- if you work with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to fulfill their pro-people agenda, you will either be transferred or might be sent to jail! Criminal cases and jail can be part of the game for politicians. But for bureaucrats, two days in jail means an immediate suspension from service. Essentially, it destroys their career and life.
This single message is enough to bring the entire administration to a screeching halt, as no bureaucrat would be willing to risk their career, just to fulfil promises made by a government to ordinary citizens.
The Aam Aadmi Party came to power in Delhi in February 2015, with an unprecedented mandate. Giving AAP 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi legislature, was the city's way of saying they wanted change. The people of Delhi -- like those all over the country -- were tired of seeing party after party, government after government come to power, while their lives remained unchanged. They still had no access to high-quality education and healthcare, they still had to pay high bills for water and electricity, they still had to pay bribes to government officials for getting any work done.
In December 2013, when AAP made its electoral debut, many people saw hope, but were not confident of the party's viability. Years of betrayal by politicians of all shades had left ordinary citizens sceptical of whether change was possible. But what they saw in AAP's 49-day government convinced them that governments can work for ordinary citizens.
Committed officials who worked tirelessly to implement pro-people policies have been shunted out and replaced with bureaucrats known to be incompetent or at loggerheads with the government.
AAP's government created hope in the minds of people, but a deep worry for the political class of this country. The success of pro-people governance would stand to expose the status quo of Indian politics. And for this very reason, when the AAP government resigned, Delhi was brought under President's rule and no fresh elections were announced. It was seen as an opportunity to end this new political experiment. For one full year, Delhi was under President's rule and governed by an unelected official, the L-G. And the people of Delhi could see the difference. And that is why, when elections were finally held in February 2015, the people of Delhi gave AAP a resounding mandate. This was a mandate to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
The AAP government got on the job. Yes, this work was not easy because of the multiplicity of governance structures in Delhi. Yet much progress was made. Ordinary citizens on the streets of Delhi began talking about how their water and electricity bills were lowered. Drivers and maids began to express their pride at how their children studying in government schools now had access to the same facilities as the children of their employers, who studied in private schools. People living in slums were receiving world-class healthcare in Mohalla Clinics. Middle-class parents were relieved as private schools were made to roll back their arbitrary fee hikes. Not only were ordinary people talking about these changes, the national and international media were praising these projects. Here was a government that was fulfilling the promises it had made to the people.
This time not only will the people of Delhi respond, but so will the people of Punjab, Goa and Gujarat...
This era of pro-people governance is now over. The brazenness of these transfer-postings can be seen from the fact that the LG has given charge of the Health Department and the mohalla clinics to an official -- Chandrakar Bharti -- against whom the Delhi government had recently demanded disciplinary action.
Not only have committed officials who worked tirelessly to implement pro-people policies been shunted out, they are being replaced with bureaucrats known to be incompetent or at loggerheads with the government.
As the Modi government and their L-G overturn a democratic mandate into a tyranny of the unelected, they would do well to remember what happened in Delhi in February 2015. The people of Delhi responded to one year of President's rule by giving AAP 67 out of 70 seats. This time not only will the people of Delhi respond, but so will the people of Punjab, Goa and Gujarat -- all the states where AAP and BJP are going to face off in the next year. In a democracy, no one can overrule the will of the people, and not pay the price for it.