Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia joined his Cabinet colleague Satyendar Jain on an indefinite fast at Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s office on Wednesday morning. The two ministers, along with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and minister Gopal Rai, have been waiting at Baijal’s office since 5.30 pm on Monday to urge him to direct bureaucrats to end their alleged strike.
Satyendar Jain started his indefinite hunger strike on Tuesday morning, about 17 hours after the four leaders began their sit-in. “I am also starting an indefinite fast to get Delhiites their rights and to get the stalled work resumed,” Sisodia tweeted. “Satyendar Jain’s fast is on since yesterday.”
The four ministers have been actively tweeting and retweeting posts, articles, pictures and videos to press their demands since Monday evening.
Sisodia wrote that Baijal had “not yet found time” to put an end to the officers’ strike and approve their proposal on delivering rations to citizens’ doorsteps.
The government claims that Indian Administrative Service bureaucrats have been on a protest since February, when two Aam Aadmi Party MLAs allegedly assaulted Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash during a meeting at Kejriwal’s residence. The IAS Association, however, has refuted the claim. They claimed that no officer was on strike, but accepted that they were not attending routine meetings called by the ministers.
On Tuesday, Kejriwal said that he and his ministers were left with no option but to stage a protest as the lieutenant governor was not paying heed to their demands. In a video statement, he said his government had been requesting Baijal since February 23 to direct the officers to return to work and has even written letters to him.
“Yesterday [Monday], we met him again and told him that we will go from here only after getting out demands fulfilled,” Kejriwal said in the video. “We are not sitting here for ourselves. We are sitting here or you [Delhi residents] and for schools, water, mohalla clinics so that people of Delhi can get facilities.”
Baijal’s office issued a statement on Monday evening, claiming he had been “threatened” to summon officers and ask them to end their strike immediately. The statement called the AAP leaders’ protest “dharna without reason”.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Kejriwal asked whether IAS officers were “merely tools” being used by the Centre to “scuttle good work being done by Delhi government”. “Is it possible for IAS officers to return to work without green signal from PMO [Prime Minister’s Office]?” he asked.