Silver jubilee celebrations of the Delhi Assembly Saturday mirrored the bitter divide in the city’s politics, with BJP and Congress giving the event a miss and AAP using the platform to fire salvos at its rivals.
According to a Vidhan Sabha press statement, the evening was supposed to witness leaders from across the political spectrum charting the journey of the institution since its inception in 1993. Since then, BJP has formed one government in Delhi, Congress three and AAP two.
However, AAP’s core demand for full statehood took centre stage as speakers, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia, spoke about how Delhi has been shortchanged by successive Congress and BJP governments at the Centre.
Speaker Ram Niwas Goel hit out at Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and Leader of the Opposition, BJP’s Vijender Gupta, over their decision to boycott the event. He also expressed anguish over BJP stalwart L K Advani’s decision to skip, despite having initially accepted the invite.
“After accepting the invite, he (Advani) had sought a few details on Vidhan Sabha as well. I will not try and second guess the reason behind his decision to skip. People will have their own understanding. But it gave me a lot of pain. We had to reprint invitation cards. The PM says Parliament is a temple. And here, Vijender Gupta stands on benches. What does Gupta know about the sanctity of the House? By choosing to boycott, they have not just insulted the House, they have insulted people of Delhi who elect representatives to this House,” he said.
Former chairman of the Delhi Metropolitan Council (1983-1990) Purushottam Goyal and former Delhi cabinet minister Harsharan Singh Ball were the only BJP and Congress representatives respectively at the event. However, in his speech, Goyal blasted the BJP, saying it won’t return to power in Delhi in the next 10 years. AAP ministers Satyendar Jain and Kailash Gahlot weren’t at the event. Kejriwal, who reached 30 minutes into the event, apologised for the delay, saying he was in Haryana. “Delhi is not even a half-state now. The limited powers that previous governments enjoyed were taken away by the Centre through the 2015 MHA notification. Why is it that the value of votes of Delhiites are less than those of other states?,” he said.
Sisodia said it was unfortunate that even after 25 years of the constitution of the assembly, the elected CM has to get his decisions vetted by the Lt Governor. “It is a matter of shame and goes against the tenets of principle of democracy and law,” he said.
Kejriwal ended off saying he hopes that Delhi will attain full statehood in the next five years, “for which we will go to the people and prepare them to struggle”. Meanwhile, Rashtrapati Bhawan is learnt to be upset about insinuations that President Ramnath Kovind declined the invitation because of political reasons. He has been to similar celebrations in at least three non-BJP ruled states, officials said, adding that prior commitments kept him from accepting. “He has just come back from Myanmar and he was headed to Gujarat. He has attended celebrations in state Assemblies in Karnataka, Mizoram and Kerala,” said a source.
(With inputs from Abantika Ghosh)