With the Congress refusing to support the Delhi government’s controversial Jan Lokpal Bill, the stage is set for a major showdown with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party it has propped up, threatening the survival of the five-week-old minority dispensation in the national capital.
The Arvind Kejriwal government is adamant about passing the Bill at a public session of the Delhi Assembly this month. The Bill has to be approved by the Union home ministry but AAP sources said such approval is not necessary. Delhi Congress chief and MLA Arvinder Singh Lovely said Tuesday the party could not support a Bill that is not constitutional. “Any Bill introduced in the Delhi Assembly that has financial implications needs prior approval from the Union home ministry through the lieutenant-governor, without which it cannot become law. The Congress cannot support anything that is not constitutional,” he said.
The opposition BJP is in agreement with the Congress on this. “Once cleared by the Central government, the Assembly can pass the Bill following which it is sent back to the home ministry for approval and then for assent from the lieutenant-governor,” BJP leader and former Delhi finance minister Jagdish Mukhi said.
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But AAP sources said the party was undeterred. “We are the elected government of Delhi and the Delhi Assembly is the supreme law making body. We do not require any approval from anybody else for it. We are not concerned with any other party and will introduce the Bill as planned,” a senior AAP leader said. Education Minister Manish Sisodia remained tight lipped and chose to only say that “the Congress, for 40 years, has found ways of delaying the Lokpal. This seems like another”.
AAP sources said the ruling party is unwilling to concede ground on the decision. “This is a very important issue and we will not compromise on it for anything. We have already had a run-in with the home ministry and are not afraid of another,” said another AAP leader. The Delhi government and the Union home ministry had locked horns over the former’s demand last month that four police officers be suspended. Congress sources said the party would challenge the passage of the Bill. “If the speaker of the house allows this Bill, the Congress is prepared to move a motion of no confidence against the speaker,” said a senior Congress leader. The AAP hopes to table the Bill during a session that is expected to begin on February 14.