Congress and Aam Aadmi Party protest over new Delhi bill
The Congress and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi have begun protests against a new bill, likely to be passed by Parliament, that they fear would make the Delhi government redundant.
The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, introduced by the Centre in the Lok Sabha on Monday defines the term “government” in any law passed by the Delhi Assembly as the “lieutenant governor”.
The LG’s opinion will also be mandatory before any executive action by the elected government, and the Assembly would lose its powers to conduct probes into administrative decisions like it is currently investigating Facebook’s alleged role in 2020’s communal riots.
The three major parties of the capital have promised statehood in their manifestos over the last three decades, and the Assembly has passed resolutions to this effect during governments run by the BJP, Congress and the AAP. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had threatened to go on a hunger strike for statehood in 2019.
The Congress was first to start protests against the bill on Tuesday — on Jantar Mantar Road.
Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Anil Kumar said: “It is shocking that the Arvind government kept quiet for over a month after the Union cabinet had given its approval for the introduction of the bill in Parliament on February 3; nor did the Aam Aadmi Party MPs in both Houses of Parliament speak against it.… The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has been handed out poetic justice for supporting the Modi government when the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir was snatched away and it was bifurcated into two Union Territories.”
After Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was nullified, Kejriwal — whose Lok Sabha campaign on the Delhi statehood plank failed — had tweeted: “Article 370 scrapped: “We support the govt on its decisions on J&K. We hope this will bring peace and development in the state.”
The AAP leader tweeted on Monday: “The Bill says — 1. For Delhi, ‘Govt’ will mean LG. Then what will elected govt do? 2. All files will go to LG. This is against 4.7.18 Constitution Bench judgement which said that files will not be sent to LG, elected govt will take all decisions and send copy of decision to LG.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah responded on Twitter: “In spite of AAP’s support for the dismemberment & downgrading of J&K in 2019, we still condemn this assault on the powers of the elected government of Delhi. Delhi deserves to be a full state with all powers exercised by the elected government & not a nominated LG.”
AAP MPs protested on the lawns of Parliament House on Tuesday and all MLAs have been called to protest on Jantar Mantar Road — the nearest permissible protest site.
Now, the Centre controls the police, public order and land in Delhi. The Supreme Court had ruled in 2018, after a long legal battle, that beyond these subjects, the LG’s prior concurrence to decisions was not required.
The president of the BJP’s Delhi unit, Adesh Gupta, said on Monday: “The honourable court, while deciding a dispute between the Delhi government and the Centre in February 2019, had observed that it will be better if the GNCT Delhi Act clarifies the division of administrative work and powers between the two governments.
“Today the Centre has abided by the honourable court’s directive…. The situation to bring this bill came because between 2015 and 2019 the Arvind Kejriwal government constantly tried to encroach upon the administrative work area and powers of the LG and finally the February 2019 directive of the honourable Supreme Court left no option with the Centre but to bring the present amendment.”