The protest by AAP party leaders and workers comes after Arvind Kejriwal's sit-in at the L-G's house
New Delhi: Hundreds of Aam Aadmi Party leaders and workers gathered outside Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal's office on Wednesday evening, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers have been on a sit-in protest for 48 hours. They were joined by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who resigned from the BJP recently. Rajya Sabha member and senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh has said that if the matter has not been resolved by Sunday, they will march to the Prime Minister's Office. AAP claims it has the support of other opposition parties in their protest.
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Arvind Kejriwal, whose sit-in protest at the Lieutenant Governor's house has crossed 48 hours, told NDTV, "I am fighting for the people of Delhi against those who have stopped the public services. You can say this "dharna" (protest) is my surgical strike against those who want to punish the voters of Delhi".
His government contends that Delhi's IAS officers have not been attending meetings with ministers or picking up their calls since the alleged assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash in February. The government says the "strike" has affected many initiatives, including setting up of mohalla clinics, building of drains and release of funds to private schools.
In a statement, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal's office backed the IAS officers, saying they have been working as usual and the onus was on Mr Kejriwal and his ministers to improve the relationship with bureaucrats. Mr Kejriwal accuses the Centre of trying to control the Delhi government through the Lieutenant-Governor.
The IAS officers have dismissed the government's accusation as "baseless". But in a communique, they admitted that the officers are "not attending routine meetings called by the ministers and the CM".
Mr Kejriwal has informed the Lieutenant Governor that if the officers did not end the strike, the Delhi government will be forced to impose ESMA - a law to punish those who disrupt essential services. Since morning, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia joined cabinet colleague and fellow protester Satyendar Jain in an indefinite fast.
Mr Kejriwal's party says it has the support of many opposition parties. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today tweeted in his support. "@ArvindKejriwal, CM of Delhi is sitting in a dharna in LG's office for the last few days in the capital city of the country. Elected CM must get due respect," Ms Banerjee tweeted.
The BJP, which said Mr Kejriwal's protest was "drama" and ploy to shirk work, held a rally to his house today to flag power and water scarcity in Delhi.
The Congress -- which is at loggerheads with AAP in Delhi despite its concerns about a united front against the BJP in 2019 -- has also vehemently criticized the Chief Minister.
Mr Kejriwal and his ministers went to meet Mr Baijal on Monday evening, asking that he help end the stand-off between Delhi's bureaucrats and the government and give clearance to a scheme for door-to-door delivery of rations for the poor. They started the sit-in protest when he refused.
The government of Delhi, which is a Union territory, does not have control over land, police or law and order. Its decisions have to be signed off by the Lieutenant Governor, which has triggered the tussle between the Centre's representative and the Delhi government. Last week, Mr Kejriwal launched a campaign for the full statehood of Delhi.