Delhi Bill: 12 parties united to oppose the Center; Dark Day: AAP
As many as 12 Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha and nine in Lok Sabha opposed the Bill. Outside the House, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal,
The controversial Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to make the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi equivalent to the Delhi government, was passed in Parliament Wednesday with the Rajya Sabha giving its nod — but not before it became a rallying point for the entire Opposition and saw regional parties uniting in a rare pushback against what they called an overweening Centre.
As many as 12 Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha and nine in Lok Sabha opposed the Bill. Outside the House, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had slammed the Bill earlier as a move to undermine his government, described its passage as a “sad day” while Deputy CM Manish Sisodia called it a “black day” for democracy.
In Rajya Sabha, 16 MPs from 14 parties participated in the discussion. In a show of unity, representatives from Congress, AAP, TMC, BJD, DMK, YSRCP, SP, CPI(M), Shiv Sena, SAD, TDP and NCP opposed the Bill, leaving only the BJP and ally RPI (A) in its favour. Boosting the Opposition ranks, YSRCP, which supported the Bill in the Lok Sabha, opposed it in the Upper House.
Although the Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha by 83 votes against 45, the proceedings also witnessed a walkout by the Congress, SP, YSRCP, BJD and AIADMK.
In the Lok Sabha, eight Opposition parties — AAP, BSP, Congress, IUML, NC, NCP, Shiv Sena and SP – had opposed the Bill, which was supported by BJP and YSRCP.
In all, 28 members participated in the discussions in both houses, of whom 22 supported the Bill.
On Wednesday, the Upper House saw heated arguments with Opposition MPs chanting slogans against the Government. Opposing the Bill, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said it would effectively take rights away from representatives of the people and put the LG in charge. “What is the point of elections if you are making the LG the leader?” Kharge asked while demanding that the Bill be sent to a select committee.
Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi described the Bill as “the most pernicious, unconstitutional… this House has ever seen”. “This is not about AAP, this is not about Congress, this is not about West Bengal, it’s about the fundamentals of federalism… Even the Delhi BJP should join us. You may tomorrow be in power in Delhi,” he said.
Singhvi argued against key provisions of the Bill, especially Clause 4 which states that the Legislative Assembly shall not make any rule to enable itself to consider the matters of the day-to-day administration of the Capital or conduct inquiries in relation to administrative decisions. “If Delhi can’t inquire or do matters of day-to-day, then will they fry pakodas?” he said.
The Bill, which was passed by Lok Sabha on March 22, also defines the term “Government.” It states that the “expression ‘Government’ referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly… shall mean the Lieutenant Governor”.
TMC’s Derek O’Brien asked: “Which is more important? The Constitution of India or the manifesto of the party?” He said that several TMC MPs flew in for this Bill instead of campaigning for the election in West Bengal “because the Constitution is more important”.
“This is not about the Aam Aadmi Party and I want to appeal to my friends in the AIADMK who are now sitting with them… Shiv Sena no more. I want to appeal to the TRS. I want to appeal to YSR and JD(U). Don’t walk out, one day they will come after you. This regime wants to destroy every institution brick by brick,” he said.
Some regional parties that have allied with the BJP on various issues spoke against the Bill. BJD member Prasanna Acharya said the Bill should go for wider consultation since it “undermines the authority and the power of the elected government, of an elected Assembly”. V Vijaysai Reddy of YSRCP said his party “favours representation of the people rather than the person nominated by the government”.
DMK’s P Wilson termed the move to pass the Bill as a “flagrant violation” of the Constitution while SP’s Vishambhar Prasad Nishad echoed the demand to send the Bill to a select committee.
Taking on the Centre, AAP’s Sanjay Singh of AAP said: “The voters put their votes in an EVM and chose a government. You might not like the government but you have to accept it. We also accepted you because this is democracy’s voice.”
Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi said that “at a time when reports are calling India a partly free country and an electoral autocracy… all government moves suggest this country is moving away from democracy”. And, SAD’s Naresh Gujral said “what we are doing today is taking us back to the days of Nehru”.
In Lok Sabha, 12 members of 10 parties — BJP, Congress, AAP, BSP, NC, NCP, Shiv Sena, SP, YSRCP and IUML — had participated in the discussion. Only three — two from BJP and one from YSRCP — supported the Bill while nine opposed it.
Congress MP Manish Tewari said the legislation “is completely unconstitutional”. “It is a coloured, targeted and mala fide legislation which seeks to take away the representative character of the Delhi government,” he said.
Apart from the Congress and AAP, Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut, BSP’s Kunwar Danish Ali, NCP’s Supriya Sule, SP’s S T Hasan, NC’s Hanain Masoodi and IUML’s E T Mohammed Basheer spoke against the Bill, warning that it would “affect cooperative federalism”.