Delhi’s AAP government and the Congress, which props it up, Friday seemed headed for a showdown over the Jan Lokpal bill, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying the central government’s okay was not needed to get it passed in the Delhi assembly.
The Congress reiterated that it would not support the bill as it was “unconstitutional” while the BJP also came out against it, saying the AAP government was trying to push it “in an unconstitutional manner”. The AAP has 27 members in the 70-seat Delhi assembly besides the support of an independent and a Janata Dal-United legislator.
Minus the backing of the eight Congress legislators, the anti-graft bill can’t become law. The differences between the AAP government and the Congress came out in the open after the Solicitor General reportedly told Lt Governor Najeeb Jung that the bill needed to be referred to the central government.
A fuming Kejriwal told Jung in a communication that was released to the media that there was no such constitutional requirement and that Jung must heed the constitution, not the central government. Kejriwal wants to pass the bill at a special session of the assembly at a larger venue – which itself has become a matter of dispute between various political parties.
In his three-page letter, the AAP founder urged Jung not to bow to pressures from the central government which he said were aimed at killing what is stated to be a tough anti-corruption legislation. He said the AAP government had been told by former Punjab and Haryana High Court chief justice Mukul Mudgal and lawyers P.V. Kapur, K.N. Bhatt and Pinaki Misra that the bill didn’t need the central government’s nod.
“I am aware that there is tremendous pressure on you from the Congress and the home ministry,” Kejriwal said. “They know that if the bill is passed, many of them will be jailed,” he added, without naming the Congress. “You have taken oath to be loyal to the constitution, not any party or the home ministry. Don’t let the constitution die.”
The chief minister described an “unconstitutional” a home ministry fiat asking the Delhi government to take permission from the central government to introduce a bill in the Delhi assembly. “If the central government’s permission is to be taken every time a bill has to be passed in the Delhi assembly, then what was the need to hold an election in Delhi?”
The Jan Lokpal bill is a pet theme of Kejriwal and the AAP, which was born following an anti-corruption campaign of social activist Anna Hazare. The Congress Friday hit out at the AAP government, saying while it was for the bill, it would not support anything unconstitutional. Arvinder Singh Lovely, president of the Congress in Delhi, said: “We support a strong Lokpal bill but will not support this unconstitutional bill…
This government needs to work as per the constitution.” The Congress also attacked AAP after its leader Ashutosh called Jung “a Congress agent”. “By questioning those holding constitutional posts, the AAP is showing its mentality,” Lovely said. “This has never happened before.” Bharatiya Janata Party state president Vijay Goel accused the AAP of “pushing Jan Lokpal in an unconstitutional manner (to create) anarchy”.
He said there was already a Lokayukta in Delhi and a Lokpal bill had been passed by parliament. “There is no need for the AAP government to push for the Jan Lokpal bill.”