Even before the Jan Lokpal Bill is tabled in the Delhi Assembly, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Swaraj Bill may prove to be the flashpoint that will pit the AAP against the Congress, BJP and independents in the House. Both the Congress and the BJP have opposed the Swaraj Bill, which intends to decentralise power in the national capital with mohalla sabhas.
Sources in the Delhi government maintained that the Swaraj Bill will be tabled on February 15 and the Jan Lokpal Bill a day later. Incidentally, the Delhi Cabinet is expected to clear the Swaraj Bill on Tuesday after which it may be sent to Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already said that he may resign, if other parties fail to support the Lokpal Bill. But sources in the AAP remained tight-lipped on the Swaraj Bill on Monday. “Let us see what other parties do about this. For us, this is equally important,” a party leader said.
A senior Congress functionary said the party, which supports the AAP government from the outside, was, in principle, opposed to the Swaraj Bill. “We are yet to receive a copy of this Bill for consideration, but from what we know the Bill seeks to give mohalla sabhas sweeping powers. A Bill like this requires a lot of debate, which the AAP intends to complete in one day,” the leader said.
Sources in the Congress also said the Swaraj Bill was unnecessary as the existing Bhagidari scheme intended the same. “Instead of a new Bill, the AAP could have chosen to strengthen the existing system, but their politics is all about drama,” a DPCC functionary said.
Like the Jan Lokpal Bill, the Swaraj Bill also includes financial implications.
“We have maintained that all Bills with a financial implication needs the approval of the Union government. And if the AAP government does not follow procedure, we will have to oppose it. We will never allow anything unconstitutional in Delhi,” another Congress leader said.
The Swaraj Bill intends to decentralise power by segregating the city into 2,720 mohalla sabhas, which will have functions ranging from the cleaning of roads to public vaccination and inoculation, issuing of solvency certificates, preserving heritage and even promoting compassion toward animals. The Bill also intends to do away with MLA development funds.
Even the BJP echoed the Congress’ stand on the Swaraj Bill. “This Bill (Swaraj) will cause total chaos in Delhi. We already have a municipal corporation for such work. The party cannot hope to introduce and pass such a Bill without taking views from all stakeholders,” a senior BJP leader said.