The Supreme Court pulled up the Centre and Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung on Tuesday over delay in arriving at a decision on government formation in the national capital.
The apex court's reprimand came on the day when the Centre informed it that the President had given consent to invite the single-largest party (in this case BJP) to form the government.
"Just before every date of the hearing, some statement is made about the attempt being made for the formation of government. But why things are not being done well before the date of the hearing?" asked the apex court's constitution bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu.
The court was hearing a petition by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has sought the dissolution of Delhi assembly and an order for immediate fresh polls.
Delhi is in its eighth month of President's rule after the previous AAP government headed by Arvind Kejriwal resigned in February this year following a stalemate in the assembly over a controversial anti-graft bill.
President's rule cannot go on forever in a democracy, the court pointed out.
The court also asked the Centre, "Suppose lieutenant governor is going to invite the largest party. Are they in a position to form the government?"
In the 70-member Delhi House, the BJP and its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has 29 MLAs - down from 32 after its legislators Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Bidhuri and Pravesh Verma were elected to the Lok Sabha. The AAP has 27 members, while the Congress has eight.
AAP leader and former Delhi chief minister Kejriwal took a cue from the court's observations, launching a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He accused the BJP of trying to delay the matter of government formation, and exuded confidence that his party would emerge victorious whenever fresh elections were held.
How will BJP form govt? They don't have nos. Why don't they just call elections? (1/3)— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 28, 2014
BJP playing dirty tricks wid the people of Delhi. Tried 4 times earlier to "buy" MLAs n form govt. Failed. Now 5th time?(2/3)— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 28, 2014
BJP running away from elections becoz they r dead scared of losing in delhi(3/3)— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 28, 2014
The AAP has time and again asserted that the BJP did not have enough numbers, adding the saffron party will have to engage in horse-trading to form a government on its own.
"If it has a bit of shame left, the BJP should immediately dissolve the assembly and pave the way for fresh elections," Kejriwal said, pointing out that people are tired of price rise.
"The BJP will lose (in elections) and the AAP will unexpectedly."
The Congress, too, slammed Jung for the delay in taking a decision on government formation in Delhi, accusing him of giving enough time to BJP to poach MLAs from other parties.
"In order to please his masters at the Centre -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team -- he (Jung) was resorting to delaying tactics to give the BJP enough time and opportunity to poach MLAs of other parties," Shakeel Ahmed, AICC general secretary in-charge for Delhi, told PTI.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay reiterated on Tuesday his party's stand, saying the BJP did not get any formal offer yet and will explore possibilities if they receive any such proposal.
A lot is at stake for the AAP in Delhi. After its dismal showing in the April-May general elections - the party contested more than 400 seats and won just four - it is desperate to retain its foothold in Delhi. Positive response to Kejriwal's recent rallies is believed to have given the AAP a shot in the arm.
On the other hand, the BJP, which won all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi in the 2014 elections, seems upbeat following the party's pan-India success story — the most recent chapters of which were scripted in Maharashtra and Haryana.
The Congress, however, does not seem to be in a position to dictate terms following its drubbing in the general elections and the subsequent defeats in assembly elections.
(with agency inputs)
Watch:Kejriwal takes a dig at BJP