SC ruling on Delhi power tussle
The Supreme Court verdict on the power tussle between the Lieutenant-Governor (LG) and the AAP-led government has come as a big relief for the people of Delhi who were made to endure a government that wielded little power to execute its decisions in the wake of the ongoing power struggle. The SC in its ruling has clarified that the LG is not the sole administrator of the city government as the Delhi High Court had ruled earlier. The apex court said that the LG is bound by the aid and advice of the elected government. "There is a requirement of discussion and deliberation. The fine nuances are to be dwelled upon with mutual respect. Neither authorities should feel that they have been lionised. They should feel that they are serving the Constitutional norms, values and concepts," the SC said. Though AAP leaders have claimed victory for their stand, the apex court has made it amply clear that the government should avoid confrontationist approach and engage in deliberation and discussions to sort out contentious issues.
Ever since AAP came to power in 2015, the power struggle between the Arvind Kejriwal-led government and the Centre-appointed LG has only intensified. Fresh from the election victory in which it received a massive mandate from the people in Delhi, the AAP government promised a new approach to governance and displayed an uncanny enthusiasm for controversies right from the beginning, asking for more departments like Delhi Police to come under its purview and full statehood for Delhi. Much of the last four years of the Arvind Kejriwal government has seen ugly confrontations with the LG and the Centre. As the Constitutional provisions with respect to Delhi, which is a Union Territory with a special status, are unclear, both the LG and the AAP government claimed exclusive powers on most matters, leading to intractable conflicts and lack of respect for each other. The situation turned completely out of hand when the Delhi high court ruled that the LG is the sole administrator of Delhi, leaving the Arvind Kejriwal government to a mere puppet. The AAP government challenged the HC ruling in the Supreme Court, which gave its verdict on Wednesday in which it ruled that while the government must communicate all its decisions to the LG, he should not obstruct the government's decisions and interfere in the day-to-day functioning of the government.
The Supreme Court verdict paves the way for a smooth functioning of the government in Delhi. It gives the two warring sides an opportunity to put behind all the bad blood and rancour that the power struggle in the last four years has generated. The people of Delhi can benefit immensely from the unorthodox approach of the AAP government that has made it introduce meaningful reforms in the education and healthcare sectors. Its ambitious plan to implement doorstep delivery of nearly 100 services including the distribution of ration can see the light of the day. Incidents like the alleged assault on Chief Secretary at the house of the Chief Minister would certainly be never repeated. And, the IAS officers and other government officials will not have to resort to strikes and non-cooperation against the government.
But this does not mean that AAP will change its approach to BJP or the Centre or the Prime Minister. Similarly, the latest SC court ruling would not put an end to BJP's gameplans in Delhi to keep the Kejriwal dispensation in check. The political slugfest is expected to not only continue but also intensify as the Lok Sabha election draws closer. Though AAP has not made any inroads in other states, it has plans to contest Haryana, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. In all these states, BJP is in power and that makes it impossible for AAP to avoid a direct confrontation with the party. Besides, AAP chief Kejriwal is an important face among the opposition leaders, who are trying to unite ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election in their bid to dislodge the BJP from the Centre. The opposition offensive including those from Kejriwal is going to target the star campaigner of BJP Narendra Modi and his performance as the Prime Minister. The stakes are clearly very high and neither of them is known to take a step back.
However, the latest SC ruling makes the Constitutional provisions with respect to the special status of Delhi clear. Now, everybody from the LG to the IAS officers and other government staff knows for sure that the Delhi government has a legitimate control over some of the departments and its directions cannot be overlooked. There is a message for AAP too, that it should try and take the LG into confidence before it launches initiatives that are likely to generate controversy.
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