New Delhi: Atishi Marlena, former advisor to Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, has found an empty conference room near Sisodia’s office in Delhi Secretariat. When it is occupied, she works out of a tiny room at Sisodia’s official residence. Arunoday Prakash, media advisor to Sisodia, has found a corner in the office of Nagender Sharma, media advisor to the CM. On April 17, an order from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had sacked nine top Delhi Government advisors. But this, say Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sources, hasn’t stopped them from working for the government in an unofficial capacity.
Marlena may have won praise after Delhi government school students’ stellar performance in the CBSE Class XII exams, but it hasn’t been easy going for her and the other advisors.
“They may have been sacked as advisors, but there is nothing stopping them from coming to the Secretariat as guests and helping out in an unofficial capacity. Four out of nine, including Raghav Chadha, had already resigned by the time the order came. Others were still on their respective posts. They are continuing to work. They used to have Delhi government cards, which they had to turn in once they received the order. This way, they are not breaking any laws but the work isn’t suffering much either,” said AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj.
These advisors continue to make their way to the Delhi Secretariat every day but instead of getting entry on their government passes, they have to have visitor passes made. The pick-up and drop services that they were earlier entitled to have also ceased. “They are back to Ubers and OLAs and auto-rickshaws,” said a source.
The importance of these advisors is evident from the ferocity with which Kejriwal defends them and their work in public. On Sunday, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal tweeted, “Heartiest congratulations to all our students of Class XII & their parents for their outstanding performance. Sincere thanks to their teachers. Would advise to follow your dreams with sincerity, dedication & hardwork.”
Kejriwal lashed out at the LG and said, “So u agree that Del govt doing great work in education? Who benefitted when u removed Atishi Marlena? If u stop creating obstacles, wonders cud be achieved in many sectors. It will make u also proud. Pl support our efforts. Lets be positve. Pl don’t create hurdles in everything(sic).”
But while the paperwork is being cleared and ministers continue to be advised, the powers of the advisors have been curtailed. Besides, the relationship between the Kejriwal government and the bureaucracy is at an all-time low ever since the alleged assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash.
“They are doing whatever work they can do but the problem is, they have lost access to government files. They have lost access to officials. Their hands are tied, but they still won’t stop working. This is because our party’s ethic teaches us that our only compensation is that good work is being done by our hand,” Bhardwaj said.
Nine top advisors to the Delhi government were sacked by the Ministry for Home Affairs last month. Four of the nine advisors who have been sacked had already quit their posts before the MHA order. The Aam Aadmi Party hit back at the Centre, claiming that its appointees were being unfairly targeted. This comes after AAP MLAs, who were suspended for holding ‘office of profit’, were restored by the Delhi High Court. In addition to Marlena, other top aides who have been removed include Arunoday Prakash, media advisor to Deputy CM, Amardeep Tiwari, media advisor to Law Minister and Rajat Tiwari, advisor to PWD Minister.
A day after the MHA order was issued, AAP leader and national spokesperson Raghav Chadha wrote a demand draft of Rs 2.5 to the MHA, which was enclosed in a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, after Chadha was “sacked” from his position as advisor to Delhi’s Finance Minister. This, he said, was the entire amount he drew from the Delhi government for the position he was sacked from. In her three years as advisor, Marlena drew Rs 36.