The Lieutenant Governor (LG) is not just the constitutional head of the Delhi Government (as in the case of J&K and Puducherry), but an especially empowered office, wherein under the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, ‘Delhi Government’ now means the LG.
Besides public order, police and land which were already under the LG’s office, now the LG’s nod for making any minor or major change in Delhi’s governance has been additionally muscled-in.
This revision has further escalated the historic ‘LG-versusCM’ turf wars, which did not spare the two offices, even when both the Chief Minister of Delhi and the National Government were from the same partisan setup. Today’s AAP government in Delhi and BJP in the Centre is only a stronger recipe for shriller blame-games.
The 2012 ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape and murder case that had shocked the collective conscience of the nation, led the then Chief Minister of Delhi to call it the ‘rape capital’ ~ she had been the Chief Minister of Delhi for fourteen years running and the elections were due in the next year!
The CM had insisted that senior police officials be held accountable for their failure to take adequate measures to stop such incidents, and the subtext in the midst of the gut-wrenching tragedy, was the political ‘LGversus-CM’ underpinning.
Certainly, Delhi Police’s ‘With You, For You, Always’ had failed and they needed to be taken to task, but it was a far bigger failure, a societal failure with multiple stakeholders.
But the ‘big picture’ seldom affords targeted (and political) barbs, and therefore Delhi Police fronted the primary blame. That many politicians and godmen of all partisan preferences still made the most despicable and sexist remarks that fuels a dangerously regressive societal air remained unaccounted.
The simplistic suggestion that shifting control of Delhi Police from the Home Ministry control at the Centre to Delhi’s elected government would solve all issues, was always implicit.
It is a sentiment that has persisted since, with even the incumbent Chief Minister often lapsing into, “Give us police control for two days, you will see results”. While the structural wiring that reposes the essential levers of governance of various Capitals across the globe onto the Central Government is commonplace, to deny any ‘political’ interest in hardwiring the same is equally naive, especially in Indian politics for Delhi.
While there can be credible arguments for extending police control levers to the elected local government, that is not to suggest that the other States where a deprived persuasion e.g., AAP in the case of Delhi, has ensured exemplary policing as often promised, where it does control the police, as in Punjab.
Both the Delhi Government and the Central Governments have historically blamed each other, whenever the narrative suited them. Situation warrants justifications, for both sides.
Besides the constitutional wiring, the phraseology of counter accusations barely belies the positing of electoral/ideological preferences.
Last year’s Shraddha Walkar murder case besides the inhumane graphicness of ‘35 pieces in fridge’ was also recklessly and deliberately festooned with the context of religiousity.
Social media accounts were simultaneously rife with ‘deteriorating governance in Delhi’ and conflation of wholly unrelated issues like NRC/CAA, the counter supposition of linking someone else on account of a similar surname, was equally contemptible.
In the end when the dust settled, the blame game of ‘LG-versus-CM’ was mutually raised, and the over-enthusiastic invocation of other investigative agencies onto other issues kept the argument alive.
Today, even in the ensuing Anjali Singh shame, the ‘LGversus-CM’ storyline is back with the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi blaming BJP for the “poor law and order situation in the city” and adding, “It is unfortunate that BJP is only working against the Opposition instead of managing the poor law and order situation in the city”.
Murmurs of the LG ostensibly ‘protecting’ one of the perpetrators, as he is supposedly associated with BJP are already agog. In politically charged times, even standard expressions from the Chief Minister like “no leniency should be shown” to the accused even if they had, “high political connections”, are loaded and aimed at the other side of the political aisle.
In the din of partisan oneupmanship from both sides, all sense of proportion is abandoned and only the ‘Delhi Police’ remains indefensible.
There are heaps and heaps of reports pertaining to police reforms across all States/UTs gathering dust, with no political party truly committed to implementing the same. This speaks volumes of ‘manufactured outrage’ by all in power.
Even the most heinous and shocking crimes like the latest Anjali Singh case are unsubtly navigated towards the age old ‘LG-versus-CM’ battlefield.
Amidst the charged and wasted decibels, all meaningful and transformational discussions on issues like societal sensitization, policing reforms, infrastructural development with CCTV/ lighting, police deployment plans, response mechanism and criminal justice reforms, are completely sidetracked.
Feeding populism and empathy, statements like “hang the accused” or “head hangs in shame over the inhuman crime” are at the end of the day mere words, and not reformatory action.
It is the same pattern and construct of words that have accompanied all previous ‘shames’ in Delhi, irrespective of the dispensation of the day, in either the Delhi government or at the Centre.
The zealousness to assume the higher-ground in competitive politics is all that seemingly matters, which in the case of managing Delhi City, assumes the ‘LGversus-CM’ plot.
The willful procrastination in either resolving or clarifying the exact responsibilities and accountabilities in the ‘LG-versusCM’ realm, hence the perpetuation of the same, is reflective of the questionable ‘intent’ that has haunted all parties, without exception.
Delhi Police carries the visible can for the law and order in Delhi, but the real rot is systemic and political.