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AAP vs LG fight again and this is time it is on Gandhi Jayanti

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New Delhi, Oct 04: Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena accused Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministerial colleagues on Monday of showing "utter disregard" towards the commemoration of the birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri by not attending the events organised for the purpose.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hit back, saying Kejriwal could not attend the programmes as he was campaigning in Gujarat for the state Assembly polls and also accused the Lt Governor of acting at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Delhi Lt. Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena

Saxena termed the absence of Kejriwal and other Delhi ministers at Raj Ghat and Vijay Ghat, memorials to Gandhi and Shastri, on Sunday "unacceptable" and "appalling", saying such events call for "commemoration of much beyond the issuing of symbolic advertisements in newspapers that your government very promptly did".

Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta alleged that Kejriwal has an old habit of changing colours.

Gandhi Jayanti: National Mission for Clean Ganga leads cleanliness drive at ITO Chhat Ghat Gandhi Jayanti: National Mission for Clean Ganga leads cleanliness drive at ITO Chhat Ghat

In a letter to Kejriwal, the Lt Governor said neither the Chief Minister nor any of his ministers was present at the two memorials even though President Droupadi Murmu, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, PM Modi and representatives of foreign missions in India, among others, were there to pay homage to Gandhi and Shastri.

The Lt Governor noted that Kejriwal's deputy Manish Sisodia was "perfunctorily present" at the events for a few minutes, but "did not deem the occasion fit enough to stay the course".

"It is with a deep sense of pain, regret and disappointment that I draw your attention towards the utter disregard displayed by you and the government headed by you towards the commemoration of Gandhi Jayanti and the jayanti of Bharat Ratna Lal Bahadur Shastriji yesterday," the letter read.

Saxena asserted that what made the absence all the more "unacceptable and appalling" is the fact that the President and the Vice President were invited for the programmes after an "approval" from Kejriwal,Sisodia and the minister in-charge of the general administration department.

"Moreover, in accepting the invite from the Delhi government, the President's Secretariat had clearly apprised the Chief Minister through his additional secretary that it was expected of the Chief Minister to be present at the programme and receive the President at Vijay Ghat," the letter read.

PM Modi pays tributes to Lal Bahadur ShastriPM Modi pays tributes to Lal Bahadur Shastri

Saxena said organising the homage function at Vijay Ghat is the responsibility of the city government and the invitations for the programme on Sunday were issued in the name of the Chief Minister.

"However, you were absent from the programme at Vijay Ghat and the Deputy Chief Minister, who came there, left the venue without waiting for the President to arrive."

"This is not only highly improper but prima facie amounts to deliberate breach of protocol, indicative of disrespect and insult to the president of India -- the highest constitutional authority of the Republic," the letter read.

Saxena underlined that according to the standard protocol and convention, the Chief Minister, or in his absence, the Deputy Chief Minister, should accompany the Lt Governor to receive the dignitaries at such national functions.

It is also customary that the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues are present at such events, he added.

"Much more than being matters of protocol, perfunctory respect or display of physical presence, these almost holy occasions and events at the Samadhis of the greatest sons of Mother India are an expression of respect and reverence towards them."

"Indeed, such events, especially Gandhi Jayanti, is a national festival that calls for commemoration of much beyond the issuing of symbolic advertisements in newspapers that your government very promptly did," the Lt Governor said.

He noted that the Chief Minister's personal presence would have been befitting, but since he was travelling due to a prior political commitment, it "would have been in the gracious fitness of things" for him to have nominated a senior minister on his behalf to attend the events and also accompany the President and Vice President.

Kejriwal has been travelling to Gujarat at regular intervals as the AAP eyes to make inroads in the state that is gearing up for the Assembly polls.

On Gandhi Jayanti, revisiting Mahatma Gandhi's famous Talisman testOn Gandhi Jayanti, revisiting Mahatma Gandhi's famous Talisman test

Saxena also flagged the general "apathy" in the maintenance and basic upkeep of the venues.

"Right opposite to the Samadhi gate, there was garbage and C&D waste strewn and basic cleanliness compromised. This again was reflective of utter disrespect of one of our most respected leaders and an insult to his memory," he said.

The entire episode is "indicative of disrespect and disregard" of the government towards the constitutional offices of the president and other dignitaries as well as amounts to "gross apathy and dereliction of duties and responsibilities on your part", Saxena said.

"I would...like to reiterate that just issuing advertisements in newspapers does not suffice and the importance of propriety and bi-partisanship on matters of national sentiments and interests cannot be undermined."

"I hope that you would take the points placed by me in the right stead and spirit and take necessary measures to avoid such derelictions in the future," the letter read.

In a statement, the AAP said Kejriwal has always attended the Gandhi Jayanti and Lal Bahadur Shastri Jayanti programmes in the last several years.

"The Chief Minister was in Gujarat on that day and that is why he could not attend the programme. It is important to understand the reason for the Lt Governor's letter. The Chief Minister addressed a massive rally in a tribal area of Gujarat against empty chairs of the Prime Minister's programme in Ahmedabad just two days ago. The Prime Minister is livid. This letter has been written by the Lt Governor on the Prime Minister's instructions," the party claimed.

In a tweet in Hindi, Sisodia said, "Had the BJP walked the path shown by Gandhiji and Shastriji and built schools or did something for the farmers, it would have been better. This letter has been written after a crowd gathered for @ArvindKejriwal ji in Gujarat and there were empty chairs at the Prime Minister's rally."

Gupta said Kejriwal could not reach Raj Ghat to pay tribute to the Father of the Nation but went to Sabarmati Ashram to spin the "charkha".

For the AAP, the Gujarat polls, due by the year-end, will be an opportunity to emerge as a pan-India political party. The state is set to witness a three-cornered poll contest between the BJP, the Congress and the AAP.

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