Striking balance between centre, state Baijal’s biggest challenge: Experts (News Analysis)

New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) Set to assume office as Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor on Saturday, former bureaucrat Anil Baijal faces a tough task ahead of him to create a balance between the city’s elected government and the central government he represents, experts feel.

The enormity of the challenge ahead of Baijal could be gauged from the fact that even before he assumes office, the Congress is already putting pressure on him to release the Shunglu Committee report that reportedly slams the Arvind Kejriwal government for its alleged irregularities.

On the other hand, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has expressed that Baijal, unlike his predecessor Najeeb Jung, will clear several of its development projects which have been stuck for a while.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile, wants Baijal to follow in Jung’s footsteps and act within the “consitutional guidelines”.

The Delhi government has been at loggerheads with the Lt. Governor ever since AAP came to power in February 2015.

The tussle saw several ugly spats between Jung and Chief Minister Kejriwal, with the former ordering a probe into several decisions taken by the Delhi government and Kejriwal comparing Jung to Hitler.

The Delhi High Court on August 4 ruled in the favour of the Lt Governor recognising him as the administrative head of the national capital, prompting Delhi government to move Supreme Court.

Former Lok Sabha Secretary General P.D.T. Achary told IANS that till the apex court gives its final verdict, it is for the new Lt Governor to harmonise the situation by sitting with the Chief Minister and spelling out areas where the elected government can take final decisions and where the Lt Governor will do so.

“The High Court has given him (Lt Governor) all the powers. Now it is for him to decide the kind of relation he wants to have with the elected government and how he can create a balance between the state government and the central government,” Achary said.

“If he thinks that he should use all the powers vested in him by the High Court instead of discussing with the state government while taking decisions, then the conflict won’t subside,” he added while hoping for the Supreme Court to settle the matter once and for all.

Constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C. Kashyap said that it is important for Baijal and Kejriwal to act in “cooperation” instead of “confrontation”.

“Though High Court had given primacy to Lt Governor in Delhi’s administrative affairs but there is an elected government too so it will be a challenge for Baijal to strike a rapport with the government,” Kashyap told IANS.

“Both will have to come together for the benefit of Delhi. Lt Governor can try to accomodate the wishes of the elected government within the limits of the law and constitution,” he added.

Meanwhile, Delhi Tourism and Culture Minister Kapil Mishra welcomed Baijal’s appointment and said he was hopeful of cooperation from him.

“I welcome his appointment. I am hopeful that the new Lt Governor will clear several development projects of the government which have been stopped. Hopefully the blockade will end now,” Mishra told IANS.

Several decisions of the Delhi government were stalled after Jung set up Shunglu Committee to probe over 400 files related to various decisions taken by the Delhi government since coming to power.

The probe panel was set up after the Delhi High Court recognised Lt. Governor as the administrative head of the Delhi government.

Hours after Baijal’s appointment was confirmed by President Pranab Mukherjee, BJP secretary R.P. Singh said: “The fight between former Najeeb Jung and the AAP government was not personal. He only followed constitutional steps which were opposed by the Delhi government. We hope that being a senior bureaucrat, Baijal too will follow the constitutional guidelines.”

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken hoped that Baijal would be “impartial in his dealings” and will release the Shunglu Committee report “soon after taking over”.

(Vishav and Ashish Mishra can be contacted at vishav@ians.in and ashish.m@ians.in)

–IANS

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