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One page ends chapter

New Delhi, Feb. 14: A one-page message from lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung armed Arvind Kejriwal with a ticket to exit the Delhi government.

Jung sent a message to the Assembly Speaker saying that since the Delhi Jan Lokpal bill had not followed due procedures, the House should not consider it.

Kejriwal, who had announced yesterday he would quit if the bill was not allowed to be tabled, dubbed Jung a “Viceroy of British era” at a news conference later.

Jung had cited two instances of breach of rules over the bill. “As per the Government of NCT of Delhi Act, the said (Jan Lokpal Bill) being a financial bill is to be sent for the lieutenant governor’s recommendation,” Jung said in his communication to the Speaker, the ruling AAP’s Maninder Singh Dhir.

Jung cited another provision, Transaction of Business Rules of NCT Rules 1993, under which the lieutenant governor is required to make a prior reference to the Centre before a bill is introduced in the Delhi Assembly.

Since the bill has not been placed before him and had not followed procedures, Jung recommended that “the Assembly not consider the bill unless it is introduced with recommendations of lieutenant governor”.

Earlier, the session had started on an acrimonious note around 2pm, with the Congress and BJP members saying the Assembly should not have been convened today on Sant Ravidass Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the 15th Century Bhakti Movement saint. Parliament was off today.

The two parties then switched to the Jan Lokpal bill. They said that many MLAs had not got copies and some who did, received it only late last night. Haroon Yusuf, the leader of the Congress MLAs, claimed he did not get a copy.

Leader of Opposition, the BJP’s Harsh Vardhan, said copies should be given “at least 48 hours in advance”.

All this while, several other Opposition members, alerted by news channels, had been demanding that the Speaker read out the lieutenant governor’s message, but Dhir resisted the calls. “The rules permit the Speaker to read the LG’s message as per his convenience,” Dhir told the BJP and Congress members.

This triggered protests and forced an adjournment around 2.50pm. As soon as the House reconvened after 20 minutes, Dhir read out Jung’s message. Amid the din, Kejriwal sought permission to table the bill.

At this, almost the entire House — barring the 26 AAP legislators and party rebel Vinod Kumar Binny — was on its feet. Congress legislator Asif Mohammed Khan charged at the Speaker and tried to yank off the microphone in a lunge reminiscent of Telugu Desam MP M. Venugopala Reddy’s when the Telangana bill was tabled yesterday.

Harsh Vardhan then demanded voting. “We believe that it is an order from the lieutenant governor, but if you (Dhir) have a doubt that it is merely a message, order voting. You cannot ignore it.”

But in the tense moment, Vardhan tripped on his words. “Those who got 28 seats (the AAP) are sitting in treasury benches while those with 32 (BJP) are sitting in the Opposition.”

AAP members lapped up the opportunity and thumped their desks. The AAP has accused the BJP of running away from its responsibility of forming the government and argued that Kejriwal’s party had to shoulder it instead.

At this point, around 3.50pm, a second adjournment followed. When the House reconvened, a vote was held on tabling the bill. The outcome: Forty-two MLAs of the 70-member House voted against it. This included 32 of the BJP, eight of the Congress and one each of the Akali Dal and the Janata Dal (United).

But in a sign that Kejriwal did not see the defeat as the end of his innings, his government managed to get two finance bills passed. One was for supplementary grants and the other to provide a subsidy of Rs 372 crore for power tariff cuts. Both were passed with the support of the Congress and the lone Dal (United) member.

But the BJP members protested the move. Then, around 6pm,Kejriwal rose one last time to speak as chief minister. “We were elected for the first time to this Assembly, many of you have been around for 15-20 years. We thought we will get to learn from our seniors. But in past two days, we have seen papers being torn, microphones being pulled outů”

For the next 20 minutes that Kejriwal spoke, the BJP leaders tried to shout him down and demanded his resignation. The House was then adjourned sine die.