Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Chandigarh this afternoon to discuss solutions to the issue of toxic smog wrapped around Delhi for over a week. He tweeted this morning that he is flying to the city to meet Mr Khattar over Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who also works out of Chandigarh, refused to meet Mr Kejriwal, saying he does not have “the same luxury of time” as the Delhi Chief Minister.
Mr Kejriwal flew to Chandigarh along with Delhi’s environment minister Imran Hussain and a senior bureaucrat secretary, he said, “to discuss issues related to pollution with Hon’ble CM of Haryana and his team. Look forward to a fruitful discussion.” The Delhi Chief Minister was welcomed by his counterpart in Haryana with a bouquet of orchids before the two leaders began their talks.
Arvind Kejriwal has blamed the burning of crop stubble by farmers in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana as the major cause of the spiking pollution in Delhi. He had hoped to meet the chief minister of Punjab as well today and had tweeted Amarinder Singh yesterday saying, “Sir, I am coming to Chandigarh on Wed to meet Haryana CM. Would be grateful if u cud spare sometime to meet me. It is in collective interest.”
Captain Amarinder Singh, who had last week called Mr Kejriwal a “peculiar person with views on everything but no understanding,” dismissed the suggestion. He said he “failed to understand why the Delhi Chief Minister is trying to force my hand, knowing well that any such discussion will be meaningless and futile,” and accused Mr Kejriwal of trying to divert attention from his government’s failure to check pollution in Delhi.
“Kejriwal’s tendency to indulge in petty street politics is well known,” said the Punjab Chief Minister, who asserts that the Centre must take the initiative to find a long-term solution to an inter-state problem and that a meeting of chief ministers will yield nothing.
Captain also alleged on Tuesday that Delhi’s pollution crisis has been caused by “mismanaged transportation and unplanned industrial development” and that instead of focusing all his attention on resolving these issues, “Kejriwal wants to waste time with holding useless discussions.”
Haryana’s ML Khattar has agreed to meet Mr Kejriwal, but he too has accused the Delhi chief minister of “politicising pollution” like Amarinder Singh has. The Kejriwal-Khattar meeting today came about after a strange back-and-forth earlier this week; both said publicly that while they were willing to meet, the other side seemed unavailable.
Mr Kejriwal finally tweeted that “Khattarji had called” and he would travel to Chandigarh today to meet him. Mr Khattar, he said, had refused to meet him while on a two-day visit to Delhi this week.
Mr Khattar had said earlier that while he would be in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday, “there is no response from your office on meeting,” to which Mr Kejriwal tweeted, “Sir, my office is constantly trying to fix meeting.”
The exchanges between the chief ministers began after Arvind Kejriwal said last week that he had written to his two counterparts requesting to meet them, but had not been given appointments.
The Chief Ministers’ spat and public sparring has been criticized by experts as a distraction from what has been described by doctors as a public health crisis in Delhi – a thick cloud of toxic smog 10 times the recommended limit.
The smog has been blamed on dust from construction, vehicle exhaust and the illegal crop burning in the neighbouring states.