Special Report

No end to the AAP dispute

No end to the AAP dispute

The AAP Government of the Union Territory of Delhi has, apparently, won a famous victory. Or so it claims, insisting that the reiteration of the constitutional status of the Delhi Government, a B-Category State, by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court represents a vindication of its stand. Which is that it is the lord and master of the capital in all matters barring the three – namely, land, police, and law and order. The status of the Lt Governor of Delhi is not that of a Governor of a State, the court said on Wednesday, tentatively putting to rest a long-festering dispute between the Centre’s appointee and the popularly elected Delhi government.

The apex court was disposing an appeal against the order of a two-member bench of the Delhi high court which had accorded primacy to the Delhi LG. However, the SC verdict is unlikely to end the dispute between the Kejriwal Government and the LG since there remain several grey areas which can always cause confusion and conflict. Notwithstanding the great show of triumphalism by the Delhi Government following the apex court order, in reality the verdict merely reiterates the old and long-standing constitutional division of powers and functions between the Delhi Government and the LG, the Centre’s representative. The AAP can legislate on matters in the state and concurrent lists barring the reserved subjects but a central legislation on the same subject would enjoy primacy. As Shiela Dikshit, the former chief minister of Delhi for fifteen years, said, contrary to the grandstanding by AAP, the court verdict offers nothing new, merely re-emphasising the old position.

Yes, as far as possible, the LG should concur with the decisions of the State government but he retains the power to differ and withhold assent. The court has counseled that the LG should not be ‘obstructionist’ while it has prescribed to the AAP Government that it should refrain from being ‘anarchist’. However, for the smooth working of the Delhi government, it is absolutely necessary that it should cease to be confrontationist against the LG and the Centre. If all the major opposition chief ministers can get along with the Centre despite sharp political differences, it is hard to comprehend why the chief minister of a B-Category State with vastly restricted powers should fail to appreciate constitutional limits on hid power and instead seek to constantly engage the Centre and its representative in Delhi, the LG, in a daily shouting match. If Kejriwal feels obliged to prove that he is different from the run-of- the-mill chief ministers, he must find some other constructive way to prove it. Throwing stones indiscriminately at all and sundry to attract attention helps neither his own cause nor anyone else’s. Indeed, it is this lack of trust and mutual respect that within hours of the apex court verdict, a fresh fight between the AAP and the LG broke out on the question of appointment and transfer of officials.

Even before the ink was dry on the court verdict, the Kejriwal Government citing it transferred some officials only to be told by the Services Department of Delhi that without the withdrawal of the 2015 central notification, only the LG or the Centre could exercise such powers. In any case, Kerjiwal should introspect as to why the Delhi Government employees, too, are disgusted with his style of working. Maltreating the employees, abusing them, imputing motives, blaming them for your own faults is unlikely to elicit their cooperation. If Shiela Dikshit faced no difficulties for five years working with the Vajpayee Government under the same provisions of the Constitution, why should Kejriwal constantly fight with the LG and the Centre instead of working for the good of the people of the nation’s capital. On the other hand, now that the AAP has triumphantly announced that the apex court has given it full freedom to work, the onus is on it to deliver on various promises made to the Delhi voters. It will no longer have an excuse to blame the BJP for its own failures. On their part, the LG and the Centre will do themselves a great favour if they allowed Kejriwal a free hand. He is unlikely to be able to do hard work. And will instead indulge in various eye-catching gimmicks to hoodwink the people. The SC judgment leaves Kejriwal with no option but to prove that he is capable of working hard for the welfare of the people of Delhi who only a little more than three years ago gave him 67 out of 70 Assembly seats.


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