The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, passed by 131 to 102 votes. Four MPs have abstained. The Opposition, which put up a strong fight, was bested by the joint efforts of the Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress and opposition TDP, which declared support for the government last week.
Speaking against the bill, Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha exhorted the BJP to follow their own leaders — Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani — who wanted full-fledged statehood for Delhi. The BJP, he alleged, is reacting to the fact that they have lost multiple consecutive elections in Delhi.
Mr Chadha also said the Delhi government will go to court again on this matter.
Congress’s P Chidambaram said the BJP has neither constitutional nor moral authority to pass this bill. “You won an election (in Delhi) 25 years ago, what moral right do you have? The bill is what the government thinks is a model for Delhi. They invented a model for J&K which is in court today,” he added, referring to the scrapping of Constitution’s Article 370 that bestowed special status on Jammu and Kashmir.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who moved the bill, said the Delhi services bill doesn’t violate the Supreme Court judgment, which maintained that the elected government is the boss in Delhi.
The bill, Mr Shah said, essentially gives the same powers to the Delhi government that were there during the Congress rule. The Congress is now opposing the bill “to appease the Aam Aadmi Party… They are now sitting in AAP’s lap,” he added.
Delhi’s ruling AAP, which would be most affected by the proposed law, has been campaigning against it for weeks, rallying the Opposition. AAP has argued that the proposed law will set a precedent that can be used to strip any Opposition-ruled state of its power of governance, sidelining the elected government.
Speaking shortly after the bill was passed, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the BJP is doing this “because the work we did in 7-8 years without any power, they couldn’t do the same despite being in power for 30 years in Gujarat… They have government in Manipur, they burnt down Manipur”.
The Services bill, which replaces an Ordinance that wrested control of bureaucrats from the Delhi government, had passed the Lok Sabha test by a voice vote on Thursday. The hiccup was expected in Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is yet to cross the majority mark.
The proposed law will empower the Central Government to control the functioning of the Delhi government by having the final say in the postings, transfers of bureaucrats and employees.