Delhi unit president Manoj Tiwari agreed to be the sealing officer and submitted before the SC a list of properties which he claimed were running illegally.

 

Embroiled in the sealing drive in Delhi, which has locked down thousands of shops and left many jobless, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is finding it difficult to come out of the mess. The BJP, which mounted a scathing attack on the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee for the sealing drive, is in a state of fix after its Delhi unit president Manoj Tiwari agreed to be the “sealing officer” and submitted before the Supreme Court a list of properties which he claimed were running illegally and were not sealed.

Sources in the BJP said this would provoke public anger against the party. Tiwari’s involvement with the sealing action would portray the BJP as a catalyst of sealing, a charge so far levelled against the monitoring committee.

Many in the BJP have criticised the Tiwari’s move of breaking the seal of a locked property, a move that invited the Supreme Court’s ire. In a recent core committee meeting of Delhi BJP, Union Minister and Chandni Chowk MP, Dr Harsh Vardhan questioned Tiwari’s decision of becoming the “sealing officer”.

He apparently sought to know if Tiwari’s offer to become the “sealing officer” was in his personal capacity or on behalf of the Delhi BJP.

“If it was decided on behalf of the BJP, was this matter ever discussed at any party forum?” Dr Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying. Several other leaders in the party have also expressed their unhappiness with the way the BJP state leadership was dealing with the issue.

Notably, another Union Minister and former Delhi BJP president, Vijay Goel, has also criticised the state unit leadership for failing to address the issue of sealing. During the Delhi BJP’s state executive meeting, he disapproved of the recent controversy where Tiwari broke the seal of a property in East Delhi. Goel also reprimanded Delhi BJP office bearers for “brainstorming in the comfort of offices” and said the ongoing sealing drive would cause substantial damage to the party if the same was not addressed effectively.

Some other BJP leaders also suggested that the party could have got the sealing drive stayed through an ordinance till a permanent solution to the sealing issue was found.

Meanwhile, Tiwari, in his affidavit, told the Supreme Court that he, as a “sealing officer”, would make Delhi a better, liveable and lawful place within four years and that he would not adopt a “pick and choose” method in doing the work.

He said that since the sealing action in the case was not initiated under the orders of the court or under the direction of monitoring committee, no contempt was committed by him. He claimed that the East Delhi Municipal Corporation has dragged the monitoring committee into the matter with the sole intention of gathering “media glare and publicise” the whole issue. Notably, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) has also registered an FIR naming Manoj Tiwari for breaking the seal of a property sealed in his constituency of North East Delhi on 16 September.  To this, the ruling BJP has taken strong exception and is also mulling action against the leadership in EDMC for going against the party line.

Accusing the authorities of adopting the “pick and choose” method, Tiwari questioned as to why no properties were sealed in areas like Okhla, Jamia Nagar, Shahin Bagh, Noor Nagar and Johari Farms that have five- to seven-storey buildings. He accused the monitoring committee of acting in an arbitrary manner and sealing hundreds of properties in areas like Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony and Mahipalpur, among many other places.

Tiwari claimed that the monitoring committee was set up by the apex court to oversee the implementation of orders of the court, but it was never the scope of the panel to take action in unauthorised colonies since they were protected under the 2011 Act.

He referred to the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act 2011, and said that this law extended the protection to unauthorised colonies across the city from sealing and demolition action.

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