Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said it was a “sad day for democracy” after the Rajya Sabha passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill, 2021. The Bill aims to give more powers to the lieutenant governor of Delhi.
“RS [Rajya Sabha] passes GNCTD [Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi] amendment Bill. Sad day for Indian democracy,” he tweeted. “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.”
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also called it a “dark day” for democracy. “The rights of the government elected by the people of Delhi have been taken away and handed over to LG,” he said on Twitter. “Look at the irony, the Parliament was used to assassinate democracy which is called the temple of our democracy. People of Delhi will fight against this dictatorship #BJPFearsKejriwal.”
The Bill was passed after the members voted through division slips, with 83 voting in favour and 45 against the motion. MPs opposing the Bill, including Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge, walked out of the house right after voting.
The controversial Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday amid protests from the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.
National Capital Territory of Delhi Amendment Bill
The proposed law would significantly expand the powers of the Centre-appointed lieutenant governor of Delhi, at the cost of the elected Assembly. Among other things, the Bill proposes that the term “government” in the law that underpins the functioning of Delhi refers to the lieutenant governor and not the elected leadership. Additionally, the legislation requires the Delhi government to seek the opinion of the lieutenant governor before taking any executive action.
At the core of the matter is Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution, which gives Delhi the special character of a Union Territory, with a Legislative Assembly that has a lieutenant governor as its administrative head.
Delhi has an elected Assembly, which has been dominated by the Aam Aadmi Party for six years now. The party managed to get consecutive landslide victories in 2015 and 2020, with the Bharatiya Janata Party in a distant second place both times.
This has meant, however, that AAP’s tenure since 2015 has been marked by constant tussles between the government and the Centre, primarily through the office of the lieutenant governor. In addition to that, the tensions have continued as the Centre controls land, public order and the Delhi Police.