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Millennium Post

Who calls the shots?

Who calls the shots?
Delhi has historically been a coveted seat for rulers to vie for. From the time of the Mughals, till now, Delhi continues to symbolise the epitome of power; as if a claim on that chair guarantees the applause. Even as we step into 2018, the convergence of power in Delhi with relevant stakeholders claiming their prominence continues to figure as a recurrent topic of discussion among political circles. When the Aam Admi Party had won the coveted seat of Delhi in 2014 and again 2015, their joy had known no bounds. Yet, the joy seems to have been curtailed as we now see Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal fighting a battle to reassure his legitimacy in the territory that had electorally chosen him to form its government. The Delhi High Court, abiding by the Constitution, had ruled in 2016 that the Lieutenant General (L-G) was the ultimate decision-making body of the Union Territory and the national capital, Delhi. Further, the ministers of the government must proceed with their policy implementation only after receiving a nod from the L-G, who is, almost always, appointed by the ruling party. Most state governments share an ambivalent relationship with their Governors. The story for Delhi has been a little different; primarily instigated by a clash in the claims of legitimacy and exercise of political control. The Aam Admi Party has had a particularly unfortunate equation with L-G Anil Baijal now, and Najeeb Jung earlier. Arvind Kejriwal has gone on to the point of claiming in exasperation that his party has been so bereft of power that he is unable to even appoint his own peon. Though often mocked for being a cry-baby, Arvind Kejriwal's AAP, which has been undertaking successful work in the national capital, does seem to have been paralysed by the presence of the L-G, who has been stalling most of their proposed developmental undertakings. The AAP government had passed 14 legislative bills at the Delhi state assembly, of which, most have been sent back by the L-G without an approval. The AAP has now re-tabled three of these bills in the most recent Assembly but is still awaiting approval from the L-G. The AAP claims that it had conceived some critical development projects which it had planned to undertake for the benefit of its electorate, yet, intervention from the Centre through the chair of the L-G has restricted the progress of these policies. They remain stacked in the L-G's office where little heed is paid to ensure their effective outcome, claims AAP. The AAP government has sent forth a proposal for an app-based bus aggregator services which would attend to the woes of Delhi's citizens, who battle with the trouble of public transport and rising metro fares. This proposal too remains without receiving any response from the L-G. AAP's large-scale interventions to uplift slums, by opting for a rehabilitation programme, setting up mohalla clinics ad conducting mohalla sabhas are all awaiting the L-G's nod. The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan stated clearly that "prima-facie" the Constitution of India provides primacy to the L-G in matters of decision making for Delhi, the national capital, and a Union Territory. Further, "land, police, and public order" do not fall under the purview of the Delhi government, as it is a matter of national interest. This came as a blow to the AAP who have been fighting to progress their policies under the heavy hand of the L-G, who, they claim, have been working against the AAP's interest, at the behest of the Centre. Nevertheless, Chief Justice Dipak Misra did mention that though the L-G does receive primacy, "the L-G cannot stultify an executive decision by sitting over a file. He must exercise his power in a reasonable time." Further adding, that in case of difference between the L-G and the Ministers there was a provision to approach the President for an amicable solution. Delaying files and stalling AAP's moves have been one of the several points of difference that has emerged between the AAP and the Centre, over a period of time, since 2014. They have disagreed on a plethora of important decisions—from power tariffs to corruption, to rehabilitation and suspension. As Chief Justice Misra duly noted, while the L-G does have undiluted primacy in matters of Delhi, the law does not permit him to stall progress as an outcome of whims. There is a need to hold even the highest office accountable if the progress of the nation is delayed or threatened under any circumstance. An elected government plays the very crucial role of a stable interface between policymaking and its implementation. While a nominated post can regulate important affairs, the process of receiving a customary nod for every little crack in the wall seems almost unreasonable. The AAP claims to have several important projects in its kitty; only if the gatekeepers of Delhi would begin to amiably guard their coveted territory, progress could precede conflict.

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