|Arvind Kejriwal addresses the media on Tuesday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Jan. 21: Arvind Kejriwal and his colleagues may have tried to kick up a stink but it was the chief minister’s car that has succeeded in unsettling even seasoned bureaucrats.
By evening tonight, most Delhi government babus were breathing easier — confident of looking beyond their nose.
Had they got a whiff of better days ahead?
Yes, certainly, said one, though he wouldn’t give his name.
“Working in the claustrophobic car is not a good idea since it had started stinking,” the official said.
Several officials confessed they were relieved that departmental meetings would shift back to the airy environs of the capital’s secretariat from the confines of the chief minister’s blue Wagon-R after Kejriwal called off his protest this evening. The cars windows had been rolled up all day to keep enthusiastic supporters away. And although Kejriwal had bedded down in the open last night, someone or the other had curled up inside to beat the cold.
Earlier in the day, before Kejriwal abruptly ended his 10-day protest that began yesterday, all the ministers sat in cars to clear files and discuss urgent matters with their secretaries. They also used the visitors’ room at Rail Bhavan and even the Press Club to hold meetings.
At 9.30 this morning, chief secretary S.K. Shrivastava came to meet Kejriwal to check if the cabinet meeting scheduled for the day would be convened or not.
The meeting wasn’t held.
“Cabinet meeting is scheduled for every Tuesday, but we could not convene it today,” Kejriwal said.
Several decisions are pending, including one on clearing a draft Jan Lokpal bill.
“What is a cabinet meeting all about?” health minister Satyendra Jain asked, before going on to give the answer. “Ministers talking to each other discussing key things. We are doing it here anyway. The required paper work will be done later.”
Between speeches and sound bites, Kejriwal managed to spare 45 minutes for reading files. He cleared around 30, but officers remained tight-lipped about their contents.
“All I can say is that he gave adequate time to each file,” said principal secretary to the chief minister Rajender Kumar, an IITian like Kejriwal, and who was on the protest ground since 6.30 in the morning.
All the six secretaries to the ministers were present through the day, lugging files to get signatures from their bosses.
Manish Sisodia, who handles half a dozen portfolios including education and public works, was busy managing the dharna and holding talks with AAP leaders and couldn’t sign a single file.
His secretary arrived early in the morning and waited the entire day. “He saw the files but was called in for meetings, so couldn’t clear them,” said a senior official.
Law minister Somnath Bharti wanted a more salubrious environment than his car to go through files. The minister, who was in the Rail Bhavan visitors’ room attending a party meeting, had asked his staff to bring the files in. CISF personnel posted at the gate didn’t allow the files inside and Bharti had to come to his car.
Transport minister Saurabh Bhardwaj used the opportunity to exert pressure on the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation in which the Delhi government is a minority stakeholder.
Bhardwaj wrote to DMRC MD Mangu Singh, asking him to immediately open the Metro stations that remained closed today because of the dharna.
It is learnt that the DMRC, over which the Delhi government doesn’t have much powers, just forwarded the letter to Delhi police.
The corporation was spared a Catch-22 situation after Kejriwal called off his protest.