New Delhi: Delhi's Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, who had a running battle with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, on Thursday resigned, taking both the central and Delhi governments by surprise.
A brief statement released by the Lt Governor's Office did not say why the 66-year-old former IAS officer had called it quits but quoted him as saying that he would return to academics, "his first love".
In the statement, Jung thanked both Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kejriwal for their association with him.
"He thanks the Prime Minister for all help and cooperation he received during his tenure as the Lt. Governor," it said.
Jung became the Lt Governor on July 9, 2013 when a Congress-led coalition was in office. The Modi government retained him even as it replaced most Governors in the states, raising eyebrows.
"He (Jung) also thanks the Chief Minister of Delhi for his association in the last two years," the statement said.
Jung thanked the people of Delhi too for "their support and affection, especially during the one year's President Rule" leading to the assembly elections that led to an AAP victory in February 2015.
A former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, Jung gave no reason for his dramatic decision to step down, not even to his official advisors.
He directly sent the resignation to the union Home Ministry through a special messenger.
His advisor Ajay Chaudhary said he and his colleagues were not aware of Jung's move. "It was surprising," the official told India Today news channel.
Chief Minister Kejriwal, who was in Ranchi, immediately telephoned Jung and later said his exit "is a surprise to me. My best wishes in all his future endeavours".
AAP sources said Kejriwal was likely to call on Jung on Friday.
The central government, which appoints the Lt Governor, was equally taken aback.
Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi told the media that he had met Jung on Tuesday but the latter gave no inkling of his thinking.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which openly backed Jung, did not react immediately. But the Congress said it suspected a "deal" between the Modi and Kejriwal governments leading to Jung's exit.
Informed sources said Jung, who could take up an academic job abroad, also wanted to spend more time with his family.
Jung's tenure was marked by a sharp escalation in tensions between his office, which reported to the union Home Ministry, and the AAP government of Kejriwal.
What began as a turf war turned into an often nasty confrontation between Jung and Kejriwal over who is the boss in Delhi, which, although a state, does not enjoy parity with other states.
The central government, through the Lt Governor, controls Delhi Police, law and order and issues related to land in the capital.
Jung made it a point to question almost every decision taken by the Kejriwal government, often declaring many of them null and void. Kejriwal repeatedly accused Jung of being "a Modi agent".
The recurring Jung-Kejriwal battle was decided in favour of the former on August 4 by the Delhi High Court. The AAP government has moved the Supreme Court, where the matter is yet to be decided.
Jung had reportedly confident to friends that he would quit if the Supreme Court decided the turf war in favour of the Kejriwal government.