Ignoring the Aam Aadmi Party government’s demand for fresh polls in Delhi, the Union Cabinet Saturday approved the imposition of President’s rule as recommended by Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung and kept the capital’s legislative Assembly in suspended animation.
The move allows any political party to try and form a government in six months.
The Centre decided against dissolving the Assembly following the law ministry’s opinion to the home ministry, which recommended President’s rule through a cabinet note.
The law ministry’s advice was based on a Supreme Court judgment which said an Assembly shall be dissolved only in the rarest of rare cases.
“And since the Delhi Assembly is only two months old, it shall be kept in suspended animation,” said a home ministry official, adding that the law ministry recommendation was binding on them.
However, while recommending President’s rule, the home ministry also informed the Cabinet about the demand of the outgoing government for fresh polls, a senior home ministry official said.
The AAP was quick to condemn the Cabinet decision, which it said was based on the L-G’s recommendation.
“I am questioning the logic of his decision. He did not agree to many of our decisions. Our Cabinet took a decision of having this session outside the house and he did not agree. He was openly flouting the constitution and I don’t know why,” Kejriwal said, referring to Jung.
He added that the constitution says the L-G is bound by the decision taken by the Cabinet of a “majority” government.
Asked about AAP’s allegation that keeping the Assembly in suspended animation overruling the Delhi Cabinet’s recommendation to dissolve it was “unconstitutional”, a senior home ministry official rubbished it and said the decision was according to the constitution.
Sources said the Congress, which had extended support to the minority AAP government, appeared to be in favour of President’s rule as it could ill-afford an election in Delhi where it is yet to recover lost ground.
They also said simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls could help the BJP more.
Senior BJP leaders said their party would prefer to put its divided house in order first and focus its energies on the Lok Sabha elections. BJP sources said indulging in any kind of horse trading now could only send a wrong message ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
The party had taken a high moral ground after the Assembly election results and had decided to sit in the opposition.
But for AAP, no longer carrying the burden of running the Delhi government, the priorities are clear.
“One thing is for sure, the Congress and the UPA have become progressively more and more irrelevant. The people have been asking for an alternative to the UPA’s politics. This election is about a substitute – the BJP, and an alternative, which is the Aam Aadmi Party. The AAP stands for institutional change,” AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said.
Outgoing Education Minister Manish Sisodia even challenged the BJP and the Congress to fight elections together.
“For two days in the Vidhan Sabha, they kept shouting we are 40 legislators against the AAP’s 27. They have shown that the Congress and the BJP are working together. We challenge them to come together and run the government better than we have. I only hope that the six FIRs this government registered against corruption are taken forward without any interference,” Sisodia said.
AAP also announced that a countrywide anti-corruption drive would start with a rally in Rohtak on February 23, which Kejriwal will address. Another is planned in Kanpur on March 2 – when the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is due to address a mega rally in Lucknow, barely 70 km away.
Also, despite Kejriwal’s earlier statement that AAP does not plan to fight 350 seats, the party is set to launch its Jhadu Chalao Yatra in 332 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Party sources said although no final decision has been taken, they could field candidates in all these seats – which include 56 in Uttar Pradesh and 40 each in Bihar and Tamil Nadu.
The party will announce its first list of candidates Sunday, Yadav said. Sources said the list was finalised several days ago but the party was waiting for the resignation before making it public.