Covid-19 is a political Pandemic in Delhi

Passive aggressive political mood swings continue even as number of cases double every fortnight 


A day after he tested negative for Covid-19 infection, Delhi chief minister,ArvindKejriwal was back in charge. However, in the past two days that he was under home isolation, his biggest health policy decisions of reserving Delhi hospitals for the treatment of certified Delhi residents, and altered Covid-19 testing norms, were overturned by the Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. The Lt Gov had ordered that the authorities must make sure no one is denied medical treatment in the National Capital, based on their residency status, and that the testing norms be as earlier. 

Delhi CM’s ‘hospital reservation’ had been criticised by many, and as things heated up politically, he himself went under self-isolation, therefore was not available to react, or take questions on the issue. Three days on, CM Kejriwal is back in good health, and seems to have come to terms with the situation. He has said that the decision taken by the Lt Governor will be implemented as he wanted to focus on the fight against Covid-19 and not indulge in politics. “The order of LG and the Center will be implemented. We have to fight Corona, not each other,” he said.



A day earlier, the deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia had said that  Covid-19 cases were doubling every 12-13 days in the national capital. The number of beds required in the hospitals too would have to be increased proportionally. He had also repeated his party line, saying that around 50 percent of Delhi’ hospital beds were always occupied by those who came from neighbouring states and beyond, for medical treatment, in the Capital. 

As expected, the CM repeated those exact words on Wednesday afternoon, but in his trademark soft ‘aamaadmi’ tone. However the message is not lost on those keeping a tab on Delhi politics. The political tussle between the office of the Lt Governor of Delhi, and the chief minister’s office has been in the limelight ever since the AamAadmiParty  government led by AravindKejriwal first came to power. He had even gone to the Supreme Court on the issue.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had ruled that  “Delhi’s lieutenant governor doesn’t have independent decision-making powers”, and CM Kejwiral, had celebrated this landmark ruling as a “big victory” for democracy. This is what he posted that day: 



A 2018 report in India Today had stated that a “five-judge bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice DipakMisra, was hearing appeals filed by the Kejriwal government against a 2016 Delhi High Court order which said the LG was the capital’s administrative head.” The court had observed that the Lt Gov, who is appointed by the Central government, has to agree with the Delhi government’s decisions and law making on all aspects except those concerning ‘land, and law and order.’ The court had also held that the Lt Gov “has no independent or executive power, is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers, and must work harmoniously with the government.” Justice Misra also observed that the LG needed to be kept informed of all decisions, but this didn’t mean that his concurrence was required, stated news reports.

The CM seems to have kept that in mind, and this time around has tried to take a restrained political path rather than go in for a direct confrontation. As the city, and the country is still under prepared for the dire fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CM has sent a salutary message that this was “not a time for political fights”. However, he knows his political constituency well, and has assured Delhi residents that he himself will begin visiting stadiums, banquet halls and hotels and see how they can be converted into health care centres for Covid-19 cases as the need spirals. 

However, the political undercurrents continue to flow in a passive aggressive manner even as Kejriwal said that the Lt Governor’s decision will be implemented. He said the Delhi government’s focus was on increasing the number of beds to meet the target of 80,000 by July 31. Delhi was expected to have over five lakh Covid-19 patients by then, a massive number. And even though, according to the Delhi Government, most of these cases were expected to be treated in home isolation, additional beds will also be needed for many Covid-19 cases coming from outside the city. “We may need 1.5 lakh beds,” said the CM, calling it the biggest challenge yet. 

Lt. GovBaijal had on Monday also overruled another Delhi government decision to limit the scope of Covid-19 testing. But CMKejriwal is yet to elaborate on that issue. So far, only those with active symptoms were allowed to be tested. Even then, scores of people have complained of being shuttled from one hospital to another. Even more complaints have been shared over multiple social media groups of Covid-19 patients running from one hospital to another, some even dying on the way, and even more patients running around to get tested. Journalist BarkhaDutt has been on the forefront of reporting these deaths and bringing distressed voices of families who lost loved ones to Covid-19 for want of medical attention. 

The Delhi government, on its part, said that hospitals cannot refuse treatment and must display the number of beds available on a poster or chart like this:


A poster will not help get treatment, sadly. Journalists, said to be the ones with ‘access’, have also put out messages of distress, as they too have many in the family suffering, or succumbing to Covid-19 and have had to run around from pillar to post seeking help. Till late on Tuesday night, the Congress party ran a Twitter campaign hashtagged ‘SpeakUpDelhi’ and highlighted journalist Ajay Jha’s distress video. Jha’s entire family, including his two young daughters, were Covid-19 positive, and his in-laws had recently died of the disease in the same home. He had appealed for help. Thankfully he got it, but only once his video appeal went viral after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi amplified it: 



The Congress Delhi-focused campaign has added fuel to the political battle for Delhi, but the CM has not responded to it in the same vein so far. Instead, his deputy Manish Sisodia has done most of the tough talking. On Tuesday, Sisodia had said that he had even sought that the Lieutenant Governor  “reconsider his move to strike down the Delhi Government’s order reserving hospitals except for those run by the centre for the city’s residents” he had shared this with reporters after a high powered disaster management meeting. However, according to Sisodia the issue was not even discussed in the meeting. Now “ 80,000 beds would be needed by the end of July – that too only for residents of Delhi, not outsiders… so where will this come from? What is being done about it?” he asked.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain, who was also at the high powered meeting, had said that Delhi’s Covid-19 situation was not yet seen as community transmission and half of Delhi’s cases could not be traced to any source.  Sisodia had told reporters that according to central officials, Delhi was not in the community transmission stage yet.  These are the statistics put out by Delhi Govt:





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