What began as an experiment in participatory politics 48 days ago ended Friday where it started — the Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi headquarters at 41, Hanuman Road.
In a public announcement to supporters who had gathered there at short notice, Delhi’s AAP Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had quit as his bid to table the Jan Lokpal Bill was foiled by the Congress and BJP who joined hands to call the Bill unconstitutional and vote against it.
Minutes later, Kejriwal called a meeting of party workers and after discussions, went to submit his resignation to Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung.
But Delhi’s fifth CM masked defeat with an ambitious call — that the Delhi Assembly was not enough. “From the scenes I have witnessed today, it is clear that we have to be in Parliament,” Kejriwal had said in his last speech to the Delhi Assembly a few hours earlier.
In the end, Kejriwal’s Jan Lokpal Bill could not even be introduced in the 70-member Assembly, let alone be debated and voted on. Forty-two legislators voted against its introduction and the AAP’s 27 MLAs were in favour.
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The AAP had pushed to introduce the Bill against the advice of Jung, who wrote to Speaker M S Dhir that the Bill could not be tabled without his approval. All eyes are now on the L-G as he has to decide whether to dissolve the Assembly as sought by Kejriwal or keep it in suspended animation.
“The council of ministers met this evening and decided to tender its resignation. The council also recommends dissolution of the Delhi Assembly and immediate conduct of elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly. The same may kindly be accepted,” Kejriwal wrote in his letter addressed to the President through the L-G.
“The Janlokpal collapsed, but why did this happen?” Kejriwal asked his supporters outside the party office. “Three days ago, we registered an FIR against Mukesh Ambani. Ambani is that man who runs our government. He said ‘Congress is my shop, I can buy it all’. For the past year, he has also funded Narendra Modi.”
Targeting Jung, Kejriwal said he had demanded immediate polls. “This LG considers himself a viceroy, he has no regard for the legislative Assembly. The people of the country will not keep quiet,” he said.
Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran said the L-G has to consider the options before him.
“Possibly, he may also consult the president. If no party is able to form the government, the national capital will come under President’s rule. The logical course would be for the L-G to dissolve the Assembly and call for fresh elections in a few days,” Parasaran said.
But Kejriwal clearly prefers fresh elections. Unlike his speech when he decided to assume power in December, which dwelt on the AAP’s philosophy to curb corruption, Kejriwal Friday laid the foundation for his party’s Lok Sabha poll campaign.
“The people of this country will teach the Congress and BJP a lesson. We reduced water and power rates and ordered an audit of power companies. We tried to work honestly and maybe even made mistakes. But we are people too. These people say we can’t govern properly. And we did it in five days. In 48 days, we reduced corruption. Sending the corrupt to jail is governance,” Kejriwal said.
Earlier in the day, the Delhi Assembly witnessed uproarious scenes as Congress and BJP members fought against the tabling of the Janlokpal Bill. Ignoring the L-G’s advice that tabling the Bill would be unconstitutional, the speaker asked amid protests that the Bill be presented to the house.
But the announcement was subsequently annulled by the house.
Separately, the AAP government managed to introduce, consider and pass the supplementary demand for grants for 2013-14 with the support of Congress MLAs and the JD(U)’s Shoaib Iqbal. The Bill sought to approve Rs 372 crore that will be given as power subsidy from accounts meant for the development of the city.
AAP sources said the decision to quit the government took shape earlier this week. “The government could have altered the Janlokpal Bill or gone back on its promises. AAP would have done neither. The Congress would have withdrawn support whereas the BJP was trying to buy our MLAs. For how long would the government have lasted in such a scenario? We felt that this was a good time for martyrdom,” a senior leader said.