A day after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal threatened to resign if the jan lokpal bill – his party’s flagship anti-corruption legislation – was not passed in the assembly, Mundka MLA Rambir Shokeen withdrew support to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi, claiming that Kejriwal was ignoring problems of rural Delhi.
This is unlikely to destabilise the government that continues to enjoy a simple majority — AAP has 27 MLAs in the 70-member House as well as the support of eight Congress MLAs and sole JD(U) legislator Shoaib Iqbal.
There is also no immediate danger of Kejriwal making good his threat to resign as the BJP has offered to support the passage of the jan lokpal bill, albeit conditionally.
Leader of the opposition Harsh Vardhan said his party would support the bill if it is tabled in the House through due procedure. "We will not oppose the Delhi Jan Lokpal bill though we may protest the process being adopted by the AAP government wherein the L-G and the Centre are being bypassed," Vardhan said.
Meanwhile, Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung said he has sought the opinion of the law ministry on the constitutional position of the bill.
A statement from Jung's office said that despite the predominant view that the bill requires prior consent from the Centre, the L-G has referred the matter to the Union ministry of law and justice for a final opinion.
The home ministry also referred the CM's request for withdrawing the 2002 order – that empowers the Centre to vet certain legislative proposals before the Delhi assembly considers them – to the law ministry.
"Let the law ministry's opinion come. We will inform the Delhi government accordingly," a home ministry official said.
A senior Union minister, however, conceded there was little that the Centre could do if the Kejriwal government did not wait for approval from the Centre and the Delhi assembly took up the legislation. Of course, anyone would be free to go to court but not before the assembly took it up.
The minister also insisted that the Delhi jan lokpal bill could never come into force since it sought to empower the Lokpal with powers of interception and dismissal of government officials. Rubbishing the claim, AAP leaders said these provisions weren't part of the Delhi jan lokpal bill.
Shokeen was unable to meet the L-G to hand over his withdrawal letter on Monday but will meet him on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal said on Monday he was not trying to be toppled amid talks of growing confrontation between him and the Congress party over a key anti-graft legislation.
Responding to media speculation that he was itching to quit in order to be a “martyr” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls which the AAP is going to contest a large number of seats, Kejriwal said on Saturday that this impression was wrong.
“I am not trying to be toppled, that impression is wrong. I am doing my work. We are working day and night… very hard,” he said.
At the same time, the chief minister said he does not bother about his government. “I do not bother about our government. That is the last thing I have in mind. If the government is going to fall tomorrow then it should fall today.”
Asked if the fact that the Congress could pull the plug anytime weighed on his mind, he replied, “That is their problem. If they have a problem why did they support us?”
Responding to the perception that some of his actions were calculated to provoke the Congress to withdraw its support, the AAP leader said, "No, no why should I do that? They had prior knowledge that we will do this. If they thought that we will not open corruption files of the previous (Congress) government and we will not investigate into them, it was their mistake because they did not know whom they were supporting," he said.
Meanwhile, the Congress said India was "not a lawless republic" where anyone could take the law into their own hands, underling underlined its opposition to the path adopted by AAP for bringing in the jan lokpal Bill.
The party, however, made it clear that above issue was not linked to its support to the Kejriwal government in Delhi.
Read: L-G refers Delhi's jan lokpal issue to Union law ministry for 'final opinion'