Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday skipped a tree planation programme where Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena was present as chief guest, with the Aam Aadmi Party government accusing the Centre of "hijacking" the event.
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai alleged that the Centre tried to "hijack" the programme at the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary with the Delhi Police putting up banners carrying pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the venue on Saturday night.
Sources at the lieutenant governor's office claimed the chief minister did not turn up at the programme despite a prior agreement to launch plantation of one lakh saplings together by him and Saxena.
"After absenting from the scheduled weekly meeting with the L-G on Friday citing ill-health, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today skipped a pre-decided combined programme of tree plantation again due to ill-health," one of the sources said.
Earlier, Kejriwal did not attend the scheduled weekly meeting with Saxena on Friday, in the backdrop of a CBI probe recommended by the L-G into alleged lapses and irregularities in the Delhi Excise Policy.
Rai said the chief minister and he himself would not be attending the programme, alleging it was politicised.
"The Kejriwal government's event has been turned into a political event of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he was not even going to attend it...Following the incident, the Delhi chief minister and I have now decided not to participate in the programme," he said.
The Van Mahotsav programme was to be undertaken by the L-G and the chief minister jointly as per a "mutual decision" taken on July 4, the L-G office sources said.
The designs of the banner to be affixed at the stage of the programme venue was sent to Delhi government on Thursday, they said.
"They had objected to the prime minister's photo on the banner but it was explained to them that Van Mahotsav was a government of India initiative and the PM's photo was there as well as that of the L-G and the chief minister," the sources said.
"Nothing could be farther from the truth. Standees and billboards displaying the chief minister's photos are there for all to see even now at the venue and nearby areas and unipoles on the roads there," they said over Rai's charge that the programme was hijacked.
A Delhi government official said that Rai has unequivocally addressed the "reality of the matter" and stated the event was "hijacked" by the BJP with the use of police force.
"The BJP tore down the pre-existing banners and posters of the L-G and the chief minister that had been put up by the environment department and replaced them with those of the prime minister," the official said.
Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party president Adesh Gupta hit back at Kejriwal, accusing him of not attending the ceremony over the size of his photo in the poster.
"The people of Delhi now want to ask Kejriwal if they pay taxes so that Kejriwal could make his face shine with that money," he said.
AAP leader Sanjay Singh also attacked the BJP-led Centre, saying the Delhi police tore down Kejriwal's posters at its behest.
No reaction was immediately available from the police.
The heat has been turned on the AAP government after Saxena took charge as the new L-G. In the last couple of weeks, Saxena first granted prosecution sanction to the CBI against AAP MLA and Delhi Waqf Board chairman Amanatullah Khan in a case of alleged irregularities in appointments.
Earlier this week, Saxena rejected a proposed visit of Chief Minister Kejriwal to Singapore for participating in the World Cities Summit. This was followed by his recommendation of a CBI probe into alleged irregularities related to the Excise Policy 2021-22 of the Kejriwal government.
These developments have taken a toll on relations between the L-G's office and the AAP government.
Kejriwal, after his first formal meeting with Saxena who took oath as the 22nd L-G of Delhi in May, had said that there was good coordination between them. The two had decided to meet every Friday at 4 pm for better coordination and discussion on Delhi-related issues.