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Cong fumes but not keen to kill Delhi bill

New Delhi, Feb. 10: The Congress today accused Arvind Kejriwal of indulging in “unnecessary drama” over his Jan Lokpal Bill, saying he could have submitted the draft to the Centre and waited instead of presuming that approval won’t be granted.

The criticism was an indication that the Congress did not want to be seen as blocking an anti-corruption legislation just before the Lok Sabha polls and that permission could indeed be granted to move the bill in the Delhi Assembly.

The Congress, which supports the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, hasn’t given any commitment to back the bill, though. Instead, it has asserted that it would not support any law that is not in harmony with the Lokpal Act passed by Parliament.

“Why do they assume the approval won’t come? This is just a drama and the entire discourse lacks substance. They are indulging in shadowboxing. How can they pre-decide what the (Union) home ministry will do? They should have submitted the bill to the ministry and waited for the response,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

The comments came hours after Kejriwal said he “had been fighting with the Centre” over the bill. “Now they (the Centre) are saying that we should send it for their approval. Obviously, they will not give approval. They will sit on the bill.”

The Congress also slammed Kejriwal’s contention that rules requiring Delhi bills to get prior approval of the Centre were “unconstitutional”. It also contested his decision to seek the opinion of experts and lawyers on the issue.

“This rule was framed much before the AAP was born. Can anybody give an opinion whether somebody should follow rules or not? Can this be left to individual choice? As long as the rule stands, constitutional or unconstitutional, everybody should follow it. It is not rocket science. Where is the scope for drama?” Singhvi asked.

Asked about the chief minister’s threat to resign, Singhvi said “we cannot be answerable to what a person who is beyond our control does”. “Our support to the AAP only means that the government will not fall because of our eight MLAs. Don’t link support or its withdrawal to every decision of the government.”

The Congress salvo coincided with indications from lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung to leave to the home ministry the final decision on whether the bill needed prior central ratification, though the chief minister iterated it would be tabled on Thursday.

Jung met Kejriwal this morning and the two were learnt to have discussed the bill. Later, Jung’s office issued a statement elaborating on the contents of the letter he wrote to the chief minister last week in response to Kejriwal’s accusation of working under Congress pressure.

In the letter, Jung cited rules that the Kejriwal government would be violating if it went ahead with the bill. (See below)

As a similar law was passed in December by Parliament, the bill has to be sent to the Centre to avoid contradictions, the state has been told.

The rules were framed by the home ministry and last amended in 2002 during BJP led NDA regime.

“Therefore irrespective of whether the Delhi (Kejriwal) cabinet appreciated this or not, the position would remain the same unless challenged in appropriate forums,” Jung wrote. He stressed that he shared Kejriwal’s values to fight corruption but insisted on “the need to follow procedures as mandated under the Constitution”.

Jung asked Kejriwal to reconsider another decision — to hold a discussion of MLAs on the Lokpal bill in a stadium this weekend where the public will be allowed.

He reminded the chief minister about the chaos at Kejriwal’s Janta Durbar last month. “The Delhi police is clear that it would not be possible to identify and segregate people who may have the intention to disturb the Assembly. The inability to handle large crowds had become evident in the Janta Durbar,” Jung wrote.

Kejriwal sent a written reply on the issue this evening urging Jung to help him take “democracy beyond the closed walls” and slamming the police in his latest tussle with the force that is under the Centre.

“If the police cannot provide security in one stadium, how can it be expected to keep the entire city safe?” Kejriwal asked.

RULE ROSTER

Points made by the Delhi lieutenant governor (LG) on the Arvind Kejriwal government’s Jan Lokpal Bill

● As the central Lokpal and the Lokayukta Act has already been passed by Parliament, the Delhi legislation must get the Centre’s assent to avoid possible conflicts

● Delhi government rules require draft bills to be sent to the LG before being taken
up by the state cabinet. Not done in this case

● Bills proposed by the government shall not be passed by the Assembly unless the
LG recommends them

● Prior LG recommendation also required as the Jan Lokpal Bill involves expenditure from the state’s consolidated fund