Delhi services bill: BJP trying to snatch power through backdoor, says Kejriwal
Addressing a digital press briefing minutes after Rajya Sabha passed the bill, the Delhi CM said the Centre was trying to arm twist Delhi’s residents.
As the Delhi services bill cleared the Upper House on Monday, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to snatch control of the national capital “through the backdoor” after losing to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in four straight elections and said the legislation was evidence that the party “hates the people of Delhi”.
Addressing a digital press briefing minutes after Rajya Sabha passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 just past 10 pm, Kejriwal said the Centre was trying to arm twist Delhi’s residents and snatch their votes.
“After 75 years of Independence, the Prime Minister has curtailed the freedom of the people of Delhi, almost as if their votes do not matter, because their elected government has been rendered powerless,” Kejriwal said.
“The Constitution gives you (the Centre) power to serve the people, not to snatch their freedom and rights. The people of Delhi rejected (Union home minister) Amit Shah in the elections. Now, his hatred for Arvind Kejriwal has blinded him so much that he has started oppressing the people of Delhi,” the chief minister said.
The Delhi Services Bill was approved by Lok Sabha on August 3 and, once approved by the President and notified by the Centre, will replace an ordinance issued by the Union government on May 19 that effectively overrode a May 11 Supreme Court judgment that handed control of Delhi’s bureaucracy to the state government.
The ordinance and Bill have added a new dimension to a spat between the elected government of Delhi and the lieutenant governor, who reports to the Union home ministry, over control of the bureaucracy that began in 2015 and reached the Supreme Court the year after that.
In 2018, the top court said that land, police and public order were under the Centre and the rest of the departments under the elected Delhi government. But the tussle continued, and in May this year, the top court affirmed its earlier verdict. But eight days later, the Union government brought in the 2023 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Ordinance that effectively overrode the Supreme Court’s verdict and gave powers over the bureaucracy to the Centre and the LG.
Challenges to the ordinance are pending before the top court, which has sent them to a Constitution Bench.
Senior AAP leaders, including Kejriwal, traversed the country to rally support against the ordinance, and the party hinged its entry into the INDIA grouping on the Congress taking a stand on the ordinance.
On Monday, Kejriwal said the Centre has become “so arrogant that they do not feel the need to abide by the Supreme Court’s orders.”
“If the Supreme Court passes any order they do not like, the Modi government will change it through legislation. They know that it is impossible to beat the AAP in Delhi,” he said, citing the results of assembly elections in 2013, 2015 and 2020 and civic elections in 2022.
“They have been out of power in Delhi for the last 25 years, so they know they cannot beat AAP in the elections and that is why they have grabbed power through the backdoor,” he said.
He signed off by thanking people and political parties that supported the AAP in the “fight against the Bill”. Later, on social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), Kejriwal thanked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 90, and former Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren, 79, who were in Rajya Sabha to cast their vote.
“Many thanks to both the senior leaders on behalf of all Delhiites,” he said.
Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva said the passage of the Bill marks the end of “an anarchic governance system in Delhi since 2015 under the AAP.”
“The Constitution envisioned Delhi as a Capital and Union territory. But unfortunately, the Kejriwal government, riding on the mandate given by the people, tried to violate the administrative protocol,” he said.
Kejriwal compared the Delhi Service Bill with the Government of India Act, 1935 brought by the British which paved the way for elections but the elected government did not enjoy any power. “After 75 years of independence, PM Modi has snatched the freedom of the people of Delhi, the votes of the people of Delhi have been turned meaningless,” said Kejriwal.