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Evoking voter sympathy tops AAP’s agenda after Delhi bill passage

NewsEvoking voter sympathy tops AAP’s agenda after Delhi bill passage

‘The immediate focus is on increasing the party’s tally in Lok Sabha and for this, a legal battle will be crucial’.


In its prestige battle against the Narendra Modi government, the ruling AAP government in Delhi appears in no mood to take the passage of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 or the Delhi Services Bill in Parliament as a setback. On the contrary, party strategists are planning to use the bulldozing of the bill by the Centre in parliament as a handle to evoke sympathy among voters.

Party insiders said the issue of taking the drastic step of Arvind Kejriwal government tendering its resignation to protest the passage of the Bill was also discussed, but it did not find favour with many leaders. Source said AAP convenor and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a brainstorming session—after the Bill was approved by Rajya Sabha on 7 August—has indicated that the party should use the “so-called setback” in Parliament to remind voters about his party’s promised fight against an authoritarian regime at the Centre. This would, partly, be achieved through continuing a legal battle challenging the constitutionality of the Bill in the Supreme Court. “The immediate focus is on increasing the party’s tally in Lok Sabha and for this the legal battle will be crucial,” said an AAP leader. He said the matter revolving around “injustice” done to Delhi through the Bill is planned to be kept alive through Assembly elections later this year and Lok Sabha polls next year. Kejriwal has taken the lead in this on social media as he wrote on X, “This black law is against democracy, it weakens democracy. If democracy is weak, then our India is weak.”

Asked about the next step of the AAP on the Bill, party MP Raghav Chadha said, “We will challenge it in court… the matter is not over and buried yet.” According to constitutional expert S.K. Sharma, “The AAP needs to accept the wish of the Parliament and focus on matters on which it has been given full freedom under the Bill.” In his opinion, legal battles will only increase friction among the Centre and the AAP government.

The Bill effectively takes away the power of the Delhi government to appoint and transfer a section of bureaucrats in the national capital. The now-approved legislation, which was introduced by the BJP, was passed by the Lok Sabha on 26 July. From the AAP’s perspective the Bill gives more powers to bureaucrats in the city and draws fresh lines of power-sharing between the Chief Minister, who heads the elected government, and the lieutenant governor, representative of the Central government, and the administrative machinery.

According to experts, after the passage of Bill in Parliament, the Delhi government has two main options. The first option is to challenge the constitutionality of the Bill in the Supreme Court. The AAP government can argue that the Bill violates the principles of federalism or contradicts previous judicial decisions and ask the top court to examine if the Bill is valid as per the constitutional provisions.

The AAP government contends the Bill will make it difficult for the ruling party to deliver on its promises to the people of Delhi. Kejriwal claims that the BJP was targeting his government through the provisions of the Bill as it could not defeat the ruling AAP in elections. In the 70-member Delhi Assembly, the saffron party won just 3 constituencies in 2015 and 7 constituencies in 2020 polls. Former judge of Delhi High Court judge A.P. Shah agreed with the AAP government’s claim: “The Delhi Services Bill is a clear violation of Article 239AA of the Constitution. It is an attempt to usurp powers that are not rightfully theirs.”

The second option for the AAP government is to comply with the provisions of the Bill. This would mean that the government would have to give up its power to appoint and transfer a section of bureaucrats in Delhi. The party could also try to work with the Centre to ensure that the Bill is implemented in a way that is beneficial to the people of Delhi.

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