New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday accused Lt Governor Najeeb Jung of acting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's behest and said his claim that he (Jung) was the real government in the capital was "laughable and unconstitutional".
A day after Jung rejected the appointment of Swati Maliwal as the new chief of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) because his approval was not sought, a furious Kejriwal hit back, firing his most intense salvo against the Lt. Governor.
At the same time, Kejriwal told Jung in a letter also released to the media that he was sending Maliwal's file to him for his approval as it was vital that the DCW should start work at the earliest.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, who has had more than one public spat with Jung since taking power in February, said Jung's decision to lock up the DCW's office and insist on seeing Maliwal's file was "totally illegal and unconstitutional. This is clear blackmail".
"But it is important for public good that the DCW should function in an appropriate manner," the chief minister said. "Women are facing crime and injustice in Delhi. I hope the new DCW will be able to deliver justice to all such women.
"The only purpose I see in the Lt. Governor's action is that the prime minister, through the Lt. Governor, wants to make the Delhi government bow to him.
"The issue of DCW is very important and sensitive. For us, this is not an ego battle."
And Kejriwal added in a sarcastic tone: "Lt. Governor-Prime Minister have won and all of us have been defeated. I now pray with folded hands that you sign the file and get the DCW going. I am sending the file to you."
In his communication of Wednesday rejecting Maliwal's appointment, Jung described his office as "the government" in Delhi.
Kejriwal's target -- he has been at it for some time now -- in the communication clearly was Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party was routed by the AAP in the February Delhi assembly election.
He said that on Modi's directions, the Lt. Governor had made the DCW "totally ineffective" -- the same way it was done in the case of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB).
Kejriwal maintained that the Delhi government had every right to appoint members to the DCW.
"The Lt. Governor says that Lt. Governor himself is the Delhi government. How is this possible? How can one individual claim to be the 'government'? If that was that case, there would be dictatorship in Delhi.
"It is clear that there can nothing more laughable than this. India is a democracy. There is an elected government in Delhi. The 'Delhi government' stands for the elected government, not an individual.
"Then why does the Lt. Governor indulge in such laughable and unconstitutional talk? The reality is the Lt. Governor is not doing this on his own. He is forced to do all this.
"He is doing all this at the instance of the prime minister. The fact is even the (central) home ministry is increasingly become helpless vis-a-vis the Prime Minister's Office."
Jung and Kejriwal have been locked in an acrimonious battle over governance in Delhi, particularly on the posting of officials in the Delhi government. Delhi Police reports to Jung, not to Kejriwal.