New Delhi: Delhi Cabinet minister Satyendra Jain, who had been camping at Raj Niwas since Monday, began an indefinite fast on Tuesday, escalating the stand-off between the AAP government and lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and Cabinet minister Gopal Rai continued to sit in at Raj Niwas for the second day on Tuesday
The AAP government’s demands include a direction to IAS officers to end their “strike” and action against those who have struck work for “four months”.
The unprecedented move came under severe criticism from the Opposition BJP and the Congress. However, the AAP maintained that their fight would continue and they would not get “bogged down” till their demands were met. The party also plans to take the protest a step further as it has decided that all its MLAs will march to the L-G’s office on Wednesday from the CM’s residence.
Mr Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, development minister Gopal Rai and Mr Jain met Mr Baijal at 5.30 pm on Monday and have since stayed on.
After spending the entire night in the anteroom of the L-G’s office, Mr Kejriwal also released a video on Tuesday and said that the AAP ministers had “no option” but to stage a sit-in as the L-G was not paying heed to the government’s demands “despite several requests”.
In a tweet, Mr Kejriwal also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I am really appalled at L-G’s stubborn refusal to end IAS strike and his justifications for ongoing strike. Wonder what are PMO’s instructions to him,” he said.
It was the first time in the history of Delhi that the chief minister and his Cabinet colleagues spent the night at the L-G’s office to press for their demands, officials said.
Mr Kejriwal on Tuesday morning tweeted, “Satyender Jain starts indefinite fast”. Mr Jain began his fast at the L-G’s office at 11 am. The L-G, however, did not turn up in his office on Tuesday.
On Monday night, the chief minister, who is a diabetic, had to take insulin during the sit-in and got “specific food” from his home, sources said. “My dear Delhiites, good morning. Struggle continues,” Mr Kejriwal tweeted at 6.27 am.
A number of AAP MLAs, party leaders and workers have also camped near the L-G’s office and the police has barricaded the area.
According to the AAP government, officers have not been attending meetings with the ministers and not picking up their calls due to which the people’s work was suffering. Officers have gone on a “partial strike” since the alleged assault on chief secretary Anshu Prakash on the intervening night of February 19-20, it said.
In the video message, Mr Kejriwal said that he and his ministers have been requesting the L-G since February 23 to issue directions to the IAS officers to end their “strike”, but the L-G was not paying heed to their demands.
“Yesterday, we again met him (Mr Baijal) and told him that he will go from here (L-G office) only after getting our demands fulfilled,” he said. The chief minister said, “We are not sitting here for ourselves, but we are sitting here for you (Delhiites) and for schools, water, mohalla clinics so that the people of Delhi could get facilities.”
Kejriwal alleged that some of the officers told him that the L-G’s office was “orchestrating” the “officers’ strike” that is why Lt Governor does not want bureaucrats to end their strike. The L-G’s office slammed Mr Kejriwal’s sit-in, saying it was one more “dharna without reason”.
A statement, issued by Mr Baijal’s office on Monday evening, stated that the LG was “threatened” to summon officers and issue directions to them to end their “strike” immediately.
In the morning, a letter, signed by Mr Kejriwal, Mr Sisodia, Mr Rai and Mr Jain, was sent to Mr Baijal, asking him to take all necessary steps to end the “strike” by the IAS officers, including issuing written orders, that all those officers who do not return to work will be proceeded against and “if necessary, ESMA may be invoked”.
However, the officers association has claimed that no officer is on strike and no work has been affected. “Good Morning @LtGovDelhi Sir! Delhi CM and 3 ministers are still waiting in your waiting room since yesterday evening. We hope today you’ll get time from your busy schedule to resolve these three issues. Till then we are waiting...,” Mr Sisodia tweeted.
“Handed him this letter. LG refuses to take action. LG is under constitutional duty to act. Left wid no option, we have politely told LG that we will not leave till he acts on all points. We hv come out of his chamber n sitting in his waiting room (sic),” Mr Kejriwal tweeted last evening after he along with his three ministers started their sit-in.
The AAP government and the bureaucracy have been at loggerheads since the alleged assault on Mr Prakash by AAP MLAs at Mr Kejriwal’s residence on the intervening night of February 19-20.