The Queen, the Pawn and King

Chief Minister Sheila Dixit of Delhi is showing signs of belligerence after the PM appointed Shunglu Committee indicted her and her government in the CWG scam. Now in an unprecedented move she has proposed the appointment of the state’s Chief Secretary as the state election commissioner. Is she nervous, or just playing for a draw.

I have spoken to a constitutional expert, a legal eagle, and an ex-bureaucrat who has been Chief Secretary and all of them say the same thing: the appointment of the former Chief Secretary of Delhi as the next state election commissioner is not, well, cricket. Even if it were to be argued that no constitutional impropriety as been committed, it is plain to see that no precedent exists to promote the concept either, and if it did, it was always against the spirit of the constitution.

There are more severe pre-conditions to this appointment. The PM appointed Shunglu Committee has made serious notices against the manner in which the Chief Minister and her administration handled the CW Games expenditure and plans. It stands to reason that the Chief Secretary by association and by virtue of being the lynchpin of the administrative machinery designated to execute the will of the CM in this case cannot be absolved of the charges – at least not yet. Under these conditions, to not only flaunt established norms of civility and propose to appoint him Election Commissioner, but to actually reward him for his complicity must rate as one of the most bizarrely blatant attempts to challenge the authority of every institution that has participated in establishing blame for the profligacy of the CM and her administration under the pretext of the CW games spending.

The appointment is not kosher for many more reasons, not the least that the CM has already indicated her conspiratorial intentions to manipulate the recently remodeled Municipality by splitting it into smaller units, if not three as she wanted, then five as indicated by an oppositional committee. If that be so clear to everyone, then this appointment is severely biased and is merely an extension of subverting dialogue and discourse on that score and rough ride through the second vivisection of the municipality. After all, the Chief Secretary has earned himself a reputation for being the CM’s man for all seasons and who is also referred to as her hatchet man.

If all were above board, it would seem imprudent for the CM to rush through trying to fix the CS in some profitable employment past his retirement. So personal equations aside, there seems to be only the conspiracy of remodeling the municipality at all costs as the real intent for this blasphemy.

But if that is the intent, we have a problem once again. It was just in the last elections that an expensive exercise of delimitation of Delhi’s wards took place. The exercise was massive in that it doubled the number of seats available for municipality leadership and remodeled the constituencies accordingly, sometimes to strange effect where one side of the house and the other side belonged to separate wards, or that a sewer line passed through two different wards. Be that as it may, and a reconciliation is barely underway for the many other adjustments it required, this insistence on a further split, quadrupling the number of seats in the municipality must rate as a crazy idea for a CM who has been crying herself hoarse about multiplicity of authority in Delhi.

So look at the scenario now: 7 Lok Sabha divisions; 70 assembly divisions; 272 wards; 9 police districts; 12 muncipal zones, 9 revenue districts; 1 NDMC zone; 1 cantonment board zone – all this in one city called Delhi which is neither a state, nor a Union Territory nor a stand alone capital. Now add to this the brainwave of doubling the seats of the municipality and you get 544 wards; then add 5 more municipal corporations; now add 5 respective Mayors, and then add 1 Mayor-in-Council, and guess what you get – the mess politicians like so that nobody can tell who is responsible for what.

Clearly, either the Delhi CM is driven by considerations that exceed her official interests and touch on her personal motivations or there is more than meets the eye here. Disregard her contempt for the PM’s appointed committee, and you will see the outlines of another conflict emerging under the shadow of her practiced nonchalance. This breast beating is uncharacteristic for the CM of Delhi – so is this a cover up operation to shuffle the Chief Secretary to a secure position before he spills the beans; or is it an attempt at employing him to do her bidding with the Municipal elections just round the corner, or is it something quite else – like putting the PM in his place, and send propriety to the gallows.


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