Will Anil Baijal Be Another Thorn in Arvind Kejriwal’s Path?

The complex verbal fights involving Najeeb Jung (former lieutenant governor of Delhi) Vs Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is an ego tussle. It is a war of ideals where neither wants to give up their turf. With Jung gone, Kejriwal must be feeling slightly relieved. How long will these eased feelings continue is a different story. This is well known that Arvind Kejriwal anyway loves to cry wolf in most situations. While sometimes there is a wolf, most other times it is just a sheep in a wolf skin.

However it seems that in the new year, the Delhi CM might find it hard to keep up with his antics or political maneuvering of the BJP. In such a situation, the appointment of Anil Baijal does not help the case. The million-dollar question here is which side will the proverbial camel Baijal sit!

Pros of Baijal’s appointment for Kejriwal

Anil Baijal is a 70-year old 1969 batch Indian Administrative Officer from the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory cadre. He has been in and out of various jobs in a career spanning 37 years. During this time, he has served as  a vice-chairman of the Delhi-Development Authority. This is likely to come in handy now that he finds himself sandwiched between a hostile centre and a rebel state, again.

Baijal was also a home secretary in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. This adds to his expertise since it will be easy for him to deal with government officials and other experts at the highest level. Kejriwal would like to have such an experienced player in his team when he gets down to negotiating with neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. These being on the issue of crop burning, which causes the smog choking right before winters set in.

The former bureaucrat is also responsible for the smooth rollout of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). This again is a plus point for Kejriwal as he can count on Baijal to guide him to fulfil his pre-poll promises. Like providing free WiFi across New Delhi and better the overall infrastructure of the National Capital and its surrounding regions. All in all, the former bureaucrat might not be as much an eyesore for Kejriwal.

Cons of Baijal’s appointment for Kejriwal

One of the first worries for Kejriwal, when it comes to Anil Baijal, should be that he is also a member of the famed Vivekananda International Foundation. The foundation is a men’s club-of-sorts of former bureaucrats who have made inroads in the government. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is also a product of the same think-tank. He is currently the blue-eyed boy of the Narendra Modi government on all affairs concerning Pakistan, Kashmir and international relations.  Members of this group are known to have hardline nationalistic views which tilt in favour of the Modi government. That could be a problem for Kejriwal.

The second thorn for Kejriwal could be the fact that Baijal has always been a famous stickler-for-rules. He is known to follow the rule book to the dot. One of the first tasks Baijal is likely to undertake in study the recommendations of the Shunglu committee.

The Shunglu committee was set up by former L-G Najeeb Jung. The committee was to look into allegations of nepotism and other irregularities in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government. It has decreed that the appointment of Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain’s daughter Soumya Jain to the health department was a case of nepotism. If Baijal goes ahead with the recommendations, it could be another battle lost for Kejriwal. Considering he already has some of his ministers and MLAs under scrutiny for various reasons.

Baijal also has a High-court ruling in his favour, courtesy of Najeeb Jung, which establishes L-G as the more powerful in the battle between the chief minister’s office and the former’s office. If Baijal goes by his established precedent of following rules, it could prove to be a nightmare for Kejriwal.

What can Kejriwal do?

Though the new L-G has promised to “work with the government” on all matters, it could be a statement more for the press than the ground rule. Thanks to the complex situation in Delhi born due to Jung and Kejriwal’s verbal fights, Baijal has more than one ball to juggle and control. He would have to look at the centre’s subtle requests. Also there is pressure from Delhi government to ensure peace prevails. It is during his tenure that Delhi is likely to go for the elections again. Baijal will have to tread carefully as he can neither push Kejriwal too much to the wall, nor let him walkover the pitch.

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