AA Edit | Regional Parties to BJP’s Rescue

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Opposition parties called the bill a violation of the country’s federal spirit

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reacts on the passage of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 by the Rajya Sabha, in New Delhi. (File Photo: PTI)

In spite of persistent and sustained efforts by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to rally around Opposition parties against the Central government’s move to appropriate powers from the Delhi administration, the Rajya Sabha approved the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, with 131 votes going in favour and only 102 votes against.

The bill was aimed at overturning the unanimous verdict of a five-judge Supreme Court bench that recognised the primacy of an elected government in policy and the decision-making process in the National Capital Territory of Delhi over the lieutenant-governor. Opposition parties called the bill a violation of the country’s federal spirit, which calls for a clear demarcation of powers between the Central government and state governments.

The bone of contention between the ruling BJP and the Opposition parties was Section 45E, which mandates the creation of a unique three-member body to make decisions on appointments and transfers of bureaucrats. This body — officially called the National Capital Civil Service Authority — will have three members — an elected chief minister, and two senior officials — the chief secretary of Delhi and the principal secretary (home) of Delhi — appointed by the Central government.
The fact that the bill allows these two senior officials to overrule the elected head of a government makes it not only violative of the federal spirit but patently undemocratic as it underpins and negates the subordination of an unelected executive wing to the elected legislature.

Though the Bill was portrayed as an authoritative Central government encroaching upon the domain of states, three regional parties, collectively having 24 MPs in the Rajya Sabha — the YSR Congress and the Biju Janata Dal among them — preferred to support the bill.

The Narendra Modi government cited the unique position that Delhi holds in the country as a national capital. Interestingly, it recalled the statement of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Delhi cannot enjoy full rights of a state in support of its move.