The Rajya Sabha saw multiple adjournments on Tuesday as members of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress protested the National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill, 2021, which aims to give more powers to the Capital’s lieutenant governor, PTI reported. The Upper House was adjourned for the day before it could take up discussions on the draft law.
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the Bill will take away the rights of the Delhi government and destroy democracy. “They [the Centre] should withdraw it and restore Delhi government’s power,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. “Today it’s AAP, tomorrow it will be someone else.”
The bill will be taken up when the House convenes on Wednesday. The Parliamentary Affairs Ministry said the NCT Bill will be discussed after the Finance Bill, The Hindu reported.
The uproar in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday began when Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh asked Union minister G Kishan Reddy to present the Bill. Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh opposed the motion, calling the Bill “unconstitutional” and said his notice was pending.
The House deputy chairperson told Singh that he would consider the notice after the motion was moved. After the session, AAP MPs held a meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, ANI reported.
The controversial Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday amid similar protests from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, both of whom have said that the legislation is “unconstitutional”. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the amendment “an insult” to the people of the Capital.
The Communist Party of India issued a statement criticising the proposed law. “The party strongly disapproves the way the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi (Amendment Bill 2021) was passed using the tyranny of majority in Parliament by the BJP government,” it said. “It [the Bill] snatches away the power of the elected government of Delhi, while there is a long standing demand for full statehood for Delhi.”
The CPI called the Bill a “frontal attack and an assault” on the federal structure of the Constitution. “[The] party expresses its concern over the anti-federal attitude of the central government which is being repeatedly demonstrated while passing farm laws, new education policy and even labour codes,” it said.
The proposed law would significantly expand the powers of the Centre-appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, at the cost of the elected Assembly. Among other things, the Bill proposes that the term “government” in the law that underpins the functioning of Delhi refers to the lieutenant governor and not the elected leadership. Additionally, the legislation requires the Delhi government to seek the opinion of the LG before taking any executive action.
The Centre argued that the Bill was a necessity, and has been brought to end the ambiguity in the affairs of the national Capital. The Opposition, however, maintained that if the amendments to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 are passed, the mandate of the people will become meaningless.
At the core of the matter is Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, which gives Delhi the special character of a Union Territory, with a Legislative Assembly that has a lieutenant governor as its administrative head.
Delhi has an elected Assembly, which has been dominated by the Aam Aadmi Party for six years now. The party managed to get consecutive landslide victories in 2015 and 2020, with the Bharatiya Janata Party in a distant second place both times.
This has meant, however, that AAP’s tenure since 2015 has been marked by constant tussles between the government and the Centre, primarily through the office of the lieutenant governor. In addition to that, the tensions have continued as the Centre controls land, public order and the Delhi Police.
In talk with Opposition to oppose Bill, says AAP
Aam Aadmi Party leaders said that were trying to build consensus against the Bill with other political parties. These included the Congress as well as state parties such as the Trinamool and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, reported The Hindu on Tuesday.
“Several parties such as the TMC and RJD have publicly expressed their support for AAP on the issue and have criticised the BJP-led Centre for introducing the Bill,” an unidentified party leader told the newspaper. “This Bill is an assault on the federal structure of the country and the party is reaching out to other political entities via this plank.”
Another AAP leader told The Hindu that the party wanted to send the Bill to a select committee for proper scrutiny. A meeting was held at Kejriwal’s residence on Monday to discuss the future course of action, he said.