The Delhi Slapping Allegation has many Lessons for India’s Governance System


The allegation of Delhi Chief Secretary being slapped has provided some useful case studies on the governance mechanism of the country. Only, no one is interested to look at them, much less analyze them as system experts. That no one finds it a topic worthy of his time, is itself a case study of the acceptance and apathy that has set in.

Some days back, the Chief Secretary of Delhi, an IAS officer, alleged that he was slapped by some AAP ministers. In response to that, the IAS association issued a condemnation and the officers announced that they will not be attending meetings called for by the ministers. The Chief Secretary himself missed a summons by the Delhi Assembly in connection with alleged irregularities of a cooperative bank. These are absolutely unacceptable acts, which should have invited penal action but have not even been reported as misdemeanors. Now the Chief Secretary has written to the CM that he’ll oblige by attending a budget meet.

This is simply ridiculous. Delhi CM, good or bad, has been elected by the people of Delhi in exactly the same way as Mr Modi has been elected by the people of India. If elected representatives are treated with such disdain, no government can function, whether of the state of Delhi or the centre at Delhi. Investigation of an alleged crime is a matter quite different from discharge of duties for which on is being paid. No one should be able to retain the chair one is place on and still refuse to discharge the duties come with it, whether one likes them  or not.

If these are legally tenable acts, visualize a scenario where the Chief of Army Staff or any of his Principal Staff Officers ( PSOs) refuse to attend a meeting called by the Raksha Mantri! There will be mayhem and the COAS will be sacked before the end of the day, and rightly so.  The irony here is that while the IAS officers in question are a very important link in the system of work of Delhi government, the COAS and his PSOs are not so in the work done by the Raksha Mantralay. Non attendance of a meeting by an army officer does not have the same degrading effect of the work of the Raksha Mantralaya as the non-attendance of a meeting of Delhi government by the officers of the Delhi government.

The act of the IAS officers must be probed for deeper causes. Would they have refused to attend a meeting called by the Home Minister, had the slapping allegation been on some MLA or MP of the BJP? Would they had refused summons by the parliament? I suspect not. If not, what is the difference between the two situations? Why is there so much of a friction between the Delhi government and the officers of the Delhi government? The argument that it is inevitable due to the unclear nature of real power of the Delhi CM, is false. Under this very system, the officers worked normally when Sheila Dixit of Congress was the CM, but the Centre was under a PM of BJP? No, this friction cannot be said to be a natural consequence of different power centres in the state and the centre. And it at all it really is, it becomes a case study of a system which will always become dysfunctional whenever the CM and PM are from different parties. Can we allow it to remain so?

Since Mrs Dixit could work effectively, it seems that  the present ugly situation is not due to a systems design but a definite malice by someone. Of course, it remains to be weakness of the system if it is susceptible to malices by individuals. But let us now get down to the question of whose malice it is – that of the CM of Delhi or the PM of India?

Is it really possible for the CM of Delhi to engineer a confrontation with the PM of India, who is one of the most powerful that  India has ever seen? Even if it were possible, is it in his interest to do so? Common sense says that the answer is a definite no.

Ruling out all possibilities, the only possibility left standing is that PM and HM of India are responsible for this friction. The likelihood having been established, let us look at the motive. Oh, the motive is very much there. BJP was left very red-faced when they could win only win 3 out of 70 seats in Delhi elections, in the glow of Mr Modi as the new PM of India. All prominent ministers worked tirelessly for the Delhi elections but all BJP could mange was 3 seats. To top that, Kejriwal was the man who had directly challenged Mr Modi in the loksabha polls. Indeed, there is a motive for Mr Modi to do all he can to show Kejriwal in bad light and, if possible, to bring him down. The results are there for all to see. The Delhi government is not able to take half a step without battling the Delhi officers and the LG of Delhi. In 2016, Centre returned 14 bills of the Delhi government, including its Jan Lokpal bill, for reasons of ‘not obtaining its approval in advance’. Was the situation same when Shiela Dixit was CM?

Rather than blame individuals, let us revert to examining the system. A good system must not allow the people to be used as hostages in an ugly situation between two power centres. This is where the courts must step in. They should act suo-moto to protect the rights of the people. In this case, the law has been formally approached by the Delhi government to put an end to this state of being in power but not being able to exercise it. Despite the criticality of the situation, the Supreme Court is yet to deliver its judgment. A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has, in Dec 17, reserved the judgment on Centre-Delhi power tussle over who between them wields the power of administration and governance over the National Capital. By now, the better part of the governance period of Mr Modi and Mr Kejriwal has run over already. With this, the non delivery of the judgment is acting to perpetuate the status-quo.

The country must examine its governance system dispassionately. The system must establish accountability at all levels. The can be no accountability without power, just as there should be no power without accountability. The system must prevent not only a full-blown attack by one power centre over another but also all forms of sniping and other techniques of insurgency. In case the system does falls prey to some of its design problems, the Supreme Court must rush in with a sense of urgency.

Also published on Medium.

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Col Alok Asthana (retired) served 3 instructional tenures in the top training academies of Indian army. He raised one of the early RR bns and commanded it in Manipur and then in J&K. After taking premature retirement from army, he got trained in TRIZ (a form of Innovation) at IITB and is now a consultant on innovation and leadership - A believer that we should care for governance, not politics, he has recently started Sushaasan - - which aims to empower citizens to seek good governance for themselves. He is keen that we 'reclaim our democracy'