Cong dithers as AAP rallies support against ordinance on Delhi services

Though the Congress is dagger drawn with Kejriwal and his party, it may eventually decide to back him in his bid to block the bill with the support of other parties in the Rajya Sabha in view of the grand old party’s ongoing fight against policies of the government, reports Mudit Mathur

The Ordinance brought by Modi government snatching back reins of services of IAS officers posted under the government of National Capital Territory of Delhi from the elected government to its representative, Lieutenant Governor has triggered a political row. Other regional party leaders have also come forward supporting Aam Admi Party chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on the issue. Kejriwal has spearheaded a campaign to rope in other opposition parties to ‘save the federal character’ of the Constitution of India as envisaged in its basic structure.

Kejriwal has been on a nation-wide tour with his party leaders to garner support against the Centre’s move. “When we came to power in Delhi, they snatched all our powers by releasing a simple notification. We fought against that in the court for eight years. When the Supreme Court ordered in favour of us, they imposed an ordinance on the day when the court was going on vacation. They are making a mockery of democracy,” Kejriwal said in his meetings with non-BJP chief ministers.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, former Maharashtra chief minister of Shiv Sena, Uddhav Thackrey have expressed support to block the Bill in the Rajya Sabha when it will be tabled for replacement of Ordinance as per Constitutional requirement. Pawar’s support might be instrumental to bring the Congress on board with the Rajya Sabha strategy. Kejriwal  is scheduled to meet Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to seek his support.

Though Congress party is not having cordial relations with Kejriwal and his party but it may have a rethink on the issue of supporting him in view of its ongoing fight against the actions and dogmatic policies of Modi government. Kejriwal sought time to meet Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi to seek Congress support in Parliament against undemocratic and unconstitutional ordinance passed by BJP government and also to discuss ‘general assault on federal structure’ and prevailing political situation.

The Congress also reckoned that it was open to joining like-minded parties in opposing in Parliament a Bill that the BJP government is likely to table to replace its controversial ordinance seeking to regain control over administrative services in Delhi. The Congress had always spoken out against any “assault” on federalism, attempts to “trample over the rights of states”, and “attacks against elected state governments”.

Obtaining support of Congress is essential if AAP has to win the Rajya Sabha battle. The party has 31 MPs in the upper house. The Trinamool Congress has 12 MPs, NCP has four, and Shiv Sena (UBT) has three members and AAP has 10 MPs. The bill on the matter is expected to be brought in parliament in the monsoon session and the BJP is confident that it will sail through in both the Houses.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended support of TMC to her Delhi counterpart and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal against the Central ordinance that seeks to control appointments and transfers of bureaucrats in the National Capital. She announced that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) will oppose the Bill in both Houses of Parliament.

After an hour-long meeting with Kejriwal, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, and senior AAP leaders Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Atishi at state secretariat Nabanna, Banerjee said: “If we do not unite now, the people of this country will not forgive us. This government (at the Centre) is of the bulldozer, by the bulldozer and for the bulldozer. This country will survive only if democracy exists.”

Explaining the modus operandi of Modi Rule, Kejriwal said, “They (BJP) employ three tactics when they are defeated in a state. Either they purchase MLAs to form the government or use the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate, or other central agencies against that party. They also misuse the law to stop the other party from doing work. They are basically anti-democracy and never think about the future of our country. If we can defeat them in the Rajya Sabha, it may become semi-final before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.”

The Union government promulgated an ordinance to nullify the decision of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court whereby it handed over the reins of ‘Services’ which gave it the power to transfer bureaucrats posted under the domain of government of National Capital Territory of Delhi to the elected government under Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The Ordinance overturned the constitutional bench judgement of the apex court to give more teeth to the Lieutenant Governor to regain decisive role in controlling services of bureaucrats posted with the Delhi government.

The President of India promulgated “the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023”on Friday (May 19) whereby it has now established the National Capital Service Authority (NCCSA) to make recommendations to the Delhi Lieutenant Governor regarding matters concerning transfer, posting, vigilance and other service-related incidental matters who shall have sole discretion.

The NCCSA shall consist of the chief minister as the ex-officio chairperson, the chief secretary of GNCTD and the principal home secretary, GNCTD, as ex-officio member secretaries. The NCCSA will make “recommendations” to the LG regarding “transfer, posting, vigilance and other incidental matters.” It reduced the democratically elected chief minister to just a mute spectator rather than a decision maker.

The Ordinance in effect reverses an important judgement passed by the Supreme Court last week, which had given executive power in services matters, including the transfer and posting of officers in the national capital, to the Delhi government. The Constitution Bench of Supreme Court unanimously held that Delhi government has control over administrative services in the National Capital, excluding matters relating to public order, police and land.

The Supreme Court, on May 11, in a unanimous ruling by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, said that the Delhi government has legislative and executive powers over administrative services in the national capital. With Chief Justice Chandrachud other justices of the Bench include Justice MR Shah, Justice Krishna Murari, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice PS Narasimha. The judgement held that the legislative assembly of NCTD embodies the principle of representative democracy and thus, Article 239AA must be interpreted in a manner to further the interest of representative democracy.

The Bench was of the view that if the officers feel they are insulated from the control of the government, it will dilute accountability and affect governance. “If a democratically elected government is not given the power to control the officers, the principle of triple chain of accountability will be redundant. If the officers stop reporting to the Ministers or do not abide by their directions, the principle of collective responsibility is affected,” the Bench had observed.

“The SC passed the order after years and did justice to the people of Delhi, gave them their rights. The central government took away all those rights by bringing an ordinance. When this law will come in the Rajya Sabha, it should not be allowed to pass under any circumstances. Will meet presidents of all political parties and seek their support,” appealed Delhi chief minister Kejriwal.

“This fight is not only for the people of Delhi. This fight is a fight to save Indian democracy, a fight to save the constitution given by Baba Sahib, a fight to save the judiciary. This fight is a fight to save the country. I expect everyone’s support in this. I am going across the country for the rights of the people of Delhi,” Kejriwal added.