Barbs fly but LG delivers Govt’s speech in House

ByAlok KN Mishra, New Delhi
Mar 18, 2023 04:07 AM IST

Speaking to reporters outside the assembly, Saxena, however, also said that the government-LG relationship was “intact”.

Delhi lieutenant governor (LG) VK Saxena on Friday addressed the first day of state assembly’s Budget session, highlighting the elected government’s work across sectors, even as he later referenced his acerbic relationship with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) saying that “lines were crossed” by its leaders, prompting chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to underline that his party was voted to power “by 20 million people” but has still been made to “counter several roadblocks”.

Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena. (HT Photo)
Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena. (HT Photo)

His comments, made as he left Vidhan Sabha, are the first time Saxena has publicly addressed the tussle, which has marked relations between his office and the state government for months and impacted several state programmes and initiatives.

Speaking to reporters outside the assembly, Saxena, however, also said that the government-LG relationship was “intact”.

“There is no doubt that in the last few days, some lines have been crossed. But I would like to say one thing. A tree said a very beautiful thing for the wind — it makes my leaves fall every day, but still my relations are intact. This is our government, how can relations break,” Saxena said.

Addressing reporters soon after, Kejriwal said his administration has performed despite the “hurdles” set ahead of it.

“Democracy should be respected. If two crore (20 million) people have elected and sent a government, then that government should be allowed to work. If you do not allow the government to work, it will create various kinds of problems… We all have seen the different kinds of interference that that publicly elected government has been facing, but the AAP government has been working by countering all those roadblocks,” he said.

In the assembly, Saxena delivered the official address, which is prepared by the state government.

Saxena said “my government” has, in its eight years in power, delivered good governance based on the principles of transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and sensitivity.

“In spite of various constraints, my government has taken up a number of initiatives on various fronts and laid a strong edifice on which it can help build a developed and prosperous Delhi. As its commitment to the people, my government has tried its best to achieve excellence in every field of development,” he added.

He also said that Delhi’s per capita income at current prices is estimated to have jumped 16.8%, to 4,01,982 in 2021-22, from 3,44,136 in 2020-21. To be sure, FY2021 was impacted by the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, which kept people confined to their homes and allowed a handful of businesses, known as essential services, to operate.

The speech highlighted the state government’s Rozgaar Budget, presented last year, which aimed to generate a million jobs.

“My government has presented the Rozgar Budget focused on generation of employment opportunities for the citizens of Delhi and helping the economy recover from the losses due to Covid-19, GST and demonetisation.”

He said priority has been given to the retail sector, food and beverages, logistics and supply chain, travel and tourism, entertainment, construction, real estate, electronics, electric vehicles, and green energy for creating new jobs.

LGs and governors are obligated to deliver an address before the Budget session of an assembly sitting but over the past few years, governors in some Opposition-ruled states have attempted to modify the text of the speech.

A near-constant tussle has roiled relations between Raj Niwas and the AAP government since Saxena took over in May last year as the Centre’s representative in a complicated system with two power centres.

Saxena has, since then, ordered or approved probes against several key government schemes and initiatives, including the 2021-22 excise policy, purchases of electric buses, the construction of classrooms in Delhi government schools, temporary hospitals built during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as referring to the President the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) request for a probe into the government’s erstwhile Feedback Unit (FBU).

The two have also traded barbs over a state plan to train government teachers in Finland, Delhi’s lawand order, among others. The Supreme Court is also hearing a matter over the control of services in the Capital.

The LG, in the speech, also underlined various infrastructure projects the AAP government has completed. Crucially, the state government’s Budget this year will be focussed on infrastructure.

“The construction of the underpass at Ashram Chowk has been completed and the flyover extended to the DND Flyway. One tunnel from Purana Qila Road to Ring Road along with six underpasses on Mathura Road, Bhairon Marg and Ring Road have also been constructed. The underpass at Benito Juaraz Marg, bridge on Najafgarh drain at Basaidarapur, elevated road of Barapullah Phase-III from Sarai Kale Khan to Mayur Vihar has been completed,” Saxena said.

He also said that 135,500 CCTV cameras have been installed throughout the Capital, as have 500 flags, as part of a key AAP initiative.

Lauding the state government’s work in overhauling the city’s infrastructure system, Saxena said approximately 20,000 classrooms have been inaugurated and several schools improved. He also outlined the improved pass rates of students in Delhi government institutions.

“Government schools recorded pass percentages of 98% and 97% in classes 5-12 and Class 10 respectively, during the academic session 2021-22.”

However, the Session was not without event, with opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmakers earlier briefly disrupting Saxena’s speech as they demanded that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal be removed over allegations of corruption against the AAP government.

After a 10-minute protest, speaker Ram Niwas Goel ordered BJP lawmakers Anil Bajpai, Jitendra Mahajan, and OP Sharma be marshalled out, even as their colleagues staged a walkout.

The AAP has 62 members in the 70-seat House, and the BJP has the rest.

Leader of Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri accused the state government of corruption.

“The government did not build a single new school, a single college, or hospital in the last eight years. It has in fact closed 50 schools. Around 30% Delhi government schools do not teach science. The 38 Delhi government hospitals and most of the mohalla clinics are in bad shape. Delhi continues to be among the top most polluted cities of the world. The government worked very hard to loot the public money through the excise policy in which Manish Sisodia is in jail. The AAP government worked very hard to snoop on political rivals which is nothing but sedition and a case under sedition should be lodged against Arvind Kejriwal under whose command the snooping centre was established and operated,” said Bidhuri.

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