Centre’s Delhi Bill hit out at the root of federalism, say Opposition leaders

On Wednesday, Rajya Sabha approved the Bill giving primacy to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (L-G) over the elected government after uproar by the Opposition and a walkout by MPs of parties like the Congress, SP, BJD, and the YSR-Congress in the House.

According to the new Bill named “The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021”, the “government” in Delhi means the “Lieutenant Governor.”

The Bill seeks to amend the Government of NCT of Delhi (NCTD) Act, 1991, which was enacted to “supplement provisions of the Constitution relating to the Legislative Assembly and a Council of Ministers for the National Capital Territory of Delhi.” It seeks to amend four Sections of the 1991 law, and defines the term “Government.” — “The expression ‘Government’ referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly (of Delhi) shall mean the Lieutenant Governor,” it states.

Opposition members termed the Bill as “unconstitutional” and demanded that it be sent to a Select Committee for scrutiny. In reply, MoS Home G Kishan Reddy said the amendments were in “no way undemocratic.”

The controversial Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote. A division was sought by the opposition when the government moved the Bill for consideration. During voting, 83 members were in favor while 45 opposed the Bill.

The members of the BJD, SP and the YSR-Congress walked out of the House. Just before the passage of the Bill, Congress too walked out.

This Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday.

Speaking on the Bill, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the amendments in the Bill are not about AAP or Congress but in the actual hit out at the root of federalism.

The Aam Aadmi Party said it will move the Supreme Court if the Bill is passed by Parliament, the party’s Rajya Sabha MP N D Gupta said in a tweet. 

“If the GNCT Amendment Bill is passed by Rajya Sabha today, we will go to the Supreme Court,” Gupta was quoted as saying by AAP in a tweet.

Opposing the Bill, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral said that the Bill undermines federalism in the country.

“We can have our difference with the Aam Aadmi Party, but let us not deny the right of governance to Delhi people,” he said.

“We want this Bill to be sent to the Select Committee. This is absolutely anti-democracy, anti-Constitution. We oppose this Bill and stage walkout,” Samajwadi leader Vishambhar Prasad Nishad said in Rajya Sabha.

According to Biju Janata Dal  leader Prasanna Acharya, the NCT Bill undermines the power of the elected government.

“It is not going to help cooperative federalism in the country. Hence, we have decided not to be a party in the passing of this bill. We have decided to respectfully walkout,” he said.

Soon after Rajya Sabha passed the NCT Bill, CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeted saying it is “a sad day for Indian democracy.”

“We will continue our struggle to restore power back to people. Whatever be the obstacles, we will continue doing good work. Work will neither stop nor slow down,” he said in a tweet.