Hurt after the jan lokpal bill could not be tabled in the assembly, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday hinted he was close to quitting.
“This appears to be our last session,” the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said in the House amid chaos.
Finding it difficult to make himself heard above the strong verbal lashing from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, he defended the jan lokpal bill — an anti-corruption bill drawn up by civil society activists.
“If I have to put my CM chair in jeopardy to fight corruption, I will… a thousand times. If required, I will give my life for the nation.”
Uncertainty surrounded the fate of the 49-day-old AAP government in Delhi after the jan lokpal bill could not be tabled in the assembly despite Kejriwal’s declaration that it had been introduced.
A photo of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal at his Kaushambi residence in Ghaziabad. (Burhaan Kinu/HT)
Read: AAP leaders split over Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation threat
By evening, the AAP asked supporters to gather at the party headquarters amid frenzied speculation that Kejriwal would quit.
Kejriwal had on Sunday threatened “to go to any extent” for the bill, even if it meant resigning. “The jan lokpal bill is more important to us than staying in government. We will quit if it is not passed. The government will fall if the jan lokpal and swaraj bills are not passed,” he had said.
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Asked about the possible resignation of Kejriwal, AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said, "The situation is not clear. We are waiting for the assembly session to close after which we will hold a party meeting."
Earlier in the assembly, speaker MS Dhir gave in to the opposition pressure and refused to grant permission to introduce the AAP government's jan lokpal bill.
The speaker came under attack from both the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Congress, which extends outside support to the Kejriwal government.
The bill could not be tabled after 42 of the 70 MLAs voted against it.
The AAP government had introduced the bill despite Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung's advice amid chaos and confusion. The BJP accused it of insulting the Constitution.
HT Edit: Break law and we will reward you, seems AAP’s message to people
BJP members were heard shouting slogans and celebrating after the House voted against introduction of the bill.
As soon as the assembly reconvened, Opposition BJP members said that they won't allow debate on the bill and alleged that that the speaker had insulted the L-G.
Before the House was adjourned, Kejriwal said, “It is being said that we did something unconstitutional by trying to introduce the jan lokpal bill. Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that we should seek the Centre's approval to clear the jan lokpal bill.”
He said he was upset with the events that had taken place in the assembly. “Tearing of papers and breaking mics in the assembly is not correct.”
He added, “I admit we weren't experienced when we came to power, but we expected to learn from our more learned colleagues.”
As the day's assembly session drew to a close, Kejriwal appealed legislators to help pass the bill but insisted he won't accept the Centre's "illegal directives" on the legislation. "The real reason for disruption in house is the FIR we filed against (Reliance chairman) Mukesh Ambani three days ago," he said.
This triggered a fresh wave of protests from the opposition. The focus has now shifted to the AAP headquarters in central Delhi. Kejriwal will address party workers at around 8pm.
POLL: Showdown over Jan lokpal bill: is Arvind Kejriwal looking for an exit route?