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BJP or Delhiites? Rahul Gandhi Has to Make a Choice, Says Arvind Kejriwal

In an interview to CNN-News18, Arvind Kejriwal said the Narendra Modi government had snatched away all powers from them.

Rupashree Nanda | CNN-News18

Updated:June 17, 2018, 8:06 AM IST
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New Delhi: The sit-in by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his three cabinet colleagues at the L-G's office has snowballed into a national issue with four non-NDA chief ministers rallying behind the AAP leader amid an impasse between the his government and the Lt Governor over IAS officers’ “strike”. Speaking to CNN-News18’s Rupashree Nanda, Kejriwal says his government does not have “even 10% of the powers Sheila Dikshit had”. Taking on the Congress, which has maintained an inconspicuous silence on the crisis in the capital, he says Rahul Gandhi must pick a side.

You are the CM of Delhi and have been on dharna since June 11 with three top ministers. It is a drastic step. Why and how did you take that decision? And how long will you persist?

I, along with my three ministers, have been here for the past six days. This is not enjoyment for us. We are not enjoying this. We have been compelled to take this step.

IAS officers have been on strike for three months. They come to office but only for formalities. They do not attend official meetings. They are never available if contacted for emergency. They do not respond when contacted. They do not go for field inspection. This is not how a government can function. Governance is stalled since the last three months because of the strike. We want to break this deadlock.

I have personally met [L-G] four times in the last three months. Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai, Satyendra Jain; all met him personally. He would always assure us that it will be over in a week. It never happened. Now we are here to make that happen.

We also want our proposal of doorstep delivery of ration should be cleared. We are not enjoying. The strike, and not our dharna, is responsible for stalled governance.

Did you expect the kind of political support you have garnered? Any surprises there? Are you disappointed with Congress not supporting you?

I’d like to thank all the opposition parties, their leaders and their chief ministers. Kerala, AP and Mamata Banerjee, all of them. Talking about the Congress, everyone in the nation is asking [party president] Rahul Gandhi if he is with the BJP in Delhi or the people of Delhi.

Doesn’t it worry you that if your dharna is prolonged, Delhiites may not support you? They expect the CM to work and not sit on dharna. There is a paralysis in governance.

Governance is not paralysed because of me but because of IAS officers. We are here to break this deadlock. We want to work; Manish and I want more hospitals and schools, we are not able to do it because IAS officers are not coming to the meetings.

One criticism against you is that there has never been such a constitutional crisis in Delhi’s history... If other CMs could manage, why not you and your government? Who is responsible for this crisis?

This question has been asked many times. Talking about [former CM] Sheila Dikshit, the amount of powers she had, I don’t have even 10% of those powers — the power of transferring/posting and suspending in case of no work, jailing them in case of corruption. Modi government has snatched away all these powers from us. Today, Delhi’s CM cannot suspend or jail any officer.

We need to think why this strike is on for so long. This strike is forced upon them. Some IAS officers are very good. They tell us they are being threatened that if they work, their career will be over. Why is it happening?

This is happening because we have worked a lot in last three years; schools, hospitals and ‘Bijli-Pani’. Now BJP is pressured because people are asking if Kejriwal can make schools better, why can’t BJP do the same in MP in 15 years or Gujarat in 20 years. The BJP thought we cannot do this so let us obstruct Kejriwal from doing this. I am sitting here now because they are obstructing my governance. I won’t get up till they end the strike.

You are back to targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and the Centre. The same had not worked for you before, what led to change in strategy?

We are not against any individual. I am here to work. Through your channel, I’d like to request the PM that he is the Prime Minister of the nation, he is a father-like figure. Delhi is the capital, the pride of the nation. What message is being sent to the world? That officers are sitting on a strike and the CM is sitting on a dharna to break that. And the PM is saying nothing on that.

The people are doubting if the PM and the L-G are together doing this. Everyone is saying that strike should be over soon. Your one phone call is enough to end the strike. Yesterday, we received a letter from [former Secretary-General of the United Nations] Kofi Annan that he is coming to see the Mohalla clinics here. It is such a proud moment for you, the nation and Delhi. Please support the good work and end this strike as soon as possible.

Any messages for the IAS officers who are with the Delhi government? They say there is an atmosphere of mistrust, they need to be assured that their dignity will be protected.

IAS officers are not at fault. They are not doing this deliberately. They are being made to do this. Have you ever heard that if an IAS officer is murdered or whatever, they go on strike? This strike is forced upon them. They are being threatened to not attend my meeting or go to office. The IAS officers are not at fault.

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