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AAP maintains CM Kejriwal will hold the post in jail, experts point to problems in long run

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New Delhi, Apr 1 (PTI) With Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal having been sent to judicial custody till April 15 by a city court in connection with the excise policy case, buzz over his replacement intensified even as his party leaders asserted that he will continue to head the government no matter how long he stays in jail.

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Sunita Kejriwal, wife of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener, who made a political debut of sorts in the 'Loktantra Bachao' rally at the Ramlila ground here on Sunday, is likely to assume a significant role in coming days, the sources said.

In her speech at the Ramlila ground rally, she called Kejriwal a "lion" who will not stay behind the bars for long, and read out her husband's message announcing six guarantees ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, including free electricity for the poor in the country, full statehood for Delhi and minimum support price (MSP) to farmers according to the Swaminathan Commission report among others.

The role of other party leaders including cabinet ministers Atishi, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Delhi AAP chief Gopal Rai is also likely to become "more proactive" in view of the Lok Sabha polls being round the corner.

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The experts, however, said Kejriwal's absence may not impact governance in Delhi immediately but challenges may crop up after the model code of conduct is lifted after the Lok Sabha elections.

The Delhi chief minister heads the newly-constituted National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) that deals with transfer and posting of bureaucrats in the city government, and he also chairs the cabinet meetings, former Delhi chief secretary P K Tripathi said.

"While the law has no issues, the jail manual will create problems since he (Kejriwal) can have restrictions of meeting specific number of people within stipulated period," he told PTI.

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However, the sources pointed that since Kejriwal as Delhi chief minister does not hold any portfolio, so routine work of any department is unlikely to be affected in the short run.

A senior IAS officer of the Delhi government claimed that the imposition of model code of conduct does not mean that governance work comes to halt. There are many important agenda items of NCCSA lying pending, including appointment and transfers of medical directors and superintendents of government hospitals.

"The chief minister is empowered by the Constitution to take calls on critical issues related to governance and polices. How the Delhi chief minister will deal with these while being in jail is to be seen. There is nothing like work from jail as there is a cap on persons who can meet an inmate and time allowed for it," the officer said.

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In a press conference on Monday, AAP leader Jasmine Shah asserted that Kejriwal will remain the chief minister no matter how long he is kept in jail because he has taken a constitutional oath to serve the people of Delhi.

"There is no trial yet, let alone conviction. It's his (Kejriwal's) constitutional right and duty because the chief minister is under the constitutional oath to serve the people of Delhi. Kejriwal will keep on being the Delhi chief minister no matter how long they keep him in jail," he asserted.

The Delhi chief minister, arrested on March 21 by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case linked to now scrapped excise policy of his government, was earlier in the day sent to judicial custody till April 15 by a city court. PTI VIT SLB VIT KSS KSS

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