The Lok Sabha on March 22 passed the contentious National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amidst strong opposition from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party which termed it ‘unconstitutional’.
The Bill has now been sent to the Rajya Sabha for processing.
According to the bill, the ‘government’ in Delhi means the ‘Lieutenant Governor’. The bill makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the opinion of the L-G before any executive action.
Reacting to the development, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal "Passage of GNCTD Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha today is an insult to the people of Delhi. The Bill effectively takes away powers from those who were voted by people and gives powers to run Delhi to those who were defeated. BJP has cheated the people."
On the other hand, the BJP government says, “The government claimed that the Bill would ‘further define’ the responsibilities of the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor ‘in line with the constitutional scheme of governance... as interpreted by the Supreme Court’.
The BJP and the AAP share an acrimonious history and have been fierce opponents in the state. Kejriwal contested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi in 2014 general elections while the entire India Against Corruption Movement was directed against scams in UPA 2.0.
BJP formed governments in all the 4 states which went to polls in 2014 after the general elections - Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir - riding on the Modi factor.
Kejriwal was the first leader to stop the Modi juggernaut in February 2015 when AAP handed BJP a humiliating defeat, winning 67 of the 70 seats. BJP could win only 3 seats. The Modi-Shah duo have never faced such a crushing defeat like this ever.
In the 2020 state elections, AAP dealt a second blow to BJP. The party couldn’t get to double digit tally despite overwhelming support for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Kejriwal proved once again that he is the king of Delhi.
Kejriwal symbolises the power of the common man for citizens of Delhi. The Modi-Shah duo perhaps can’t let go off this humiliating successive defeat at the hands of a party born out of a citizen movement.
The central BJP government and the state AAP government have been at loggerheads since 2015. The AAP government frequently clashed with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung over jurisdiction rights. Bills passed by the Delhi assembly were blocked by Lieutenant Governor, AAP alleged.
The confrontation intensified under the tenure of current LG Anil Baijal. In 2018, Kejriwal protested at the LG office after a number of his decisions were blocked by Anil Baijal.
The two parties then went to the Supreme Court of India. In a five-judge constitution bench of the SC held that while the LG must be informed about Delhi’s cabinet decisions, his concurrence was not needed except in the case of police, public order and land.
The judges ruled that the LG is ‘bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers’ and that ‘he/she has not been entrusted with any independent decision-making power’.
He has to ‘either act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers or implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him’.
If there is any difference of opinion between the elected government and the LG, then it could be referred to the President.
The AAP alleges that the bill is an effort by BJP to control power in Delhi through the backdoor and deny rights to an elected government. It is part of a larger conspiracy to clip the wings of AAP which has aspirations to expand beyond Delhi.
The AAP has recently made its debut in Gujarat local body elections. It is in serious contention in Punjab elections due next year. It has also announced that it will contest Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Uttarakhand elections.
The BJP is confronting these charges dismissing allegations that his party was trying to grab more power. "The bBill is only aimed at removing any confusion. There is no question of grabbing power through the backdoor. AAP is trying to rule Delhi like a state instead of a Union Territory," said MP from Delhi Manoj Tiwari.
The MCD polls in Delhi are due next year, which the BJP has been ruling for the past 15 years. It won in 2017 despite AAP winning state elections in 2015. The municipal governments of BJP could face massive anti-incumbency. AAP hopes to win the MCD polls and this entire episode has heated up the political war.
While it helps the BJP to deflect attention from real issues in MCD, it also runs the risk of giving AAP an opportunity to gain sympathy factor.
AAP has a good track record of creating and winning narratives. It will approach the voters saying that BJP has wronged the voters of Delhi by passing this Bill. The GNCTD Bill is an insult to the public mandate and voters must take revenge by throwing out BJP from MCD.
The BJP, which is not very strong in Delhi, lacks local level leaders who can match the charisma of Kejriwal and has recently replaced its state President, could face an uphill task retaining MCD and facing AAP protests against the Bill. We could also see a legal battle again.
Kejriwal is a lot like Modi, the more you corner him, the stronger he emerges.