Delhi Bill – bane or boon for I.N.D.I.A?

As expected, the verdict in the Rajya Sabha too went in favour of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in pushing through the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill on August 7. The Lok Sabha cleared the Bill four days ago. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA got 131, six more than anticipated, while the newly-formed Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) bloc just 102 as against their strength of 105. Who has voted against the party whips in that bloc in such a ‘crucial test’ which was declared as semi-final to the next year’s Lok Sabha elections by the aggrieved Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal? Although his party spokesperson in a television debate attributed motives to the Chair by pointing out the non-working of the counting machine, her party chief seems to have accepted the defeat, but not before criticizing his bête noir and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kejriwal provoked the entire I.N.D.I.A. bloc,  including the Congress, which was reluctant to back him on Delhi Ordinance initially, besides the neutrals like the Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and  Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRCP) headed by YS Jaganmohan Reddy. And, the Congress, which after the  back-to-back wins of two assembly polls – Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka – found new hopes to lead the entire Opposition, by hijacking it from the Janata Dal (United) and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who initiated the Opposition unity efforts.

On the humiliating defeat, even after putting up a brave fight, the AAP chief, went ballistic against the Prime Minister’s ‘hunger’ to even rule Delhi through the backdoor. He calls the Delhi  Bill unconstitutional, knowing well that it was passed by both the Houses of Parliament, with a clear majority and that too after a heated debate. The veteran Congress member and legal luminary, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, too tried to impress or hoodwink some ‘gullible’ elders in the Upper House by quoting only ‘selective’ Constitutional provisions to justify the stand against the Bill as it seizes powers of an elected government. He also  cited some paragraphs from the Supreme Court verdict to justify his argument why the I.N.D.I.A. bloc wishes to oppose the Bill. But, it was BJP’s Sudhansu Trivedi who called his bluff as the next speaker in the debate. Without mincing words, he nailed Singhvi stating that the SC nowhere said that the Parliament has no powers to pass legislation in this regard. And this was further clarified by practising SC lawyer Ishkaran Singh Bhandari, who asked those who opposed the Bill whether they know the difference between an Ordinance and a Bill. He said, an Ordinance can be challenged in the court, but not a Bill as the Legislature is supreme. In other words, he conveyed to the Opposition members of an impending humiliation from the apex court, though they are hoping to get justice from the SC.

Having said that, now the Delhi Bill has become a law and whoever is going to rule Delhi has to live with it, whether they like it or not. Kejriwal crying foul over so-called ‘injustice’ meted out to him, though his party’s continuous victories in almost all polls held in Delhi since 2013, holds no water as his party has proved worse as far as corruption is concerned. Neither he nor his party supporters are willing to answer questions about their leader building such a massive ‘Sheesh Mahal’ for himself to emerge as ‘aam admi,’ to Ali-e Azam of Delhi, maybe after the Moghuls left it. Also, he will never dare answer why the AAP’s two powerful former ministers – Satyendar Jain and Manish Sisodia – continue to remain in prison for months without even getting bail. Apart from these two many AAP leaders, including their chief, are under the multi-crore Excise policy scam scanner and other scams that the Delhi government is facing.

Added to the party’s Delhi Bill shock, its ‘motor-mouth’ Raghav Chadha may receive flak from the privilege committee on discipline for his allegation of ‘forgery’ of signatures by the NDA to swell its figures in the voting. The YSRCP floor leader in the Rajya Sabha Vijai Sai Reddy clarified that they have wholeheartedly supported the Bill. As if these humiliations are not enough, the upcoming assembly polls in Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will be a ‘litmus test’ before the battle royale for the Lok Sabha in 2024. On the other hand, with moral victories in pushing through the Bills it wanted, including the Delhi Bill, the NDA looks certain to defeat even the I.N.D.I.A bloc’s no-confidence motion. It will face the same fate of the Delhi Bill as the BJD and YSRCP have already decided to oppose the motion. While the NDA has 331 members in the 542-strong Lok Sabha, the I.N.D.I.A bloc is far behind with 212. In the Rajya Sabha the voting numbers likely to be ditto as in the case of the Delhi Bill. If this unity trend continues among the NDA, BJD and YSRCP, the ruling dispensation may not have much difficulty even to push through Uniform Civil Code (UCC), sooner than later.