LS nod to Delhi Services Bill, Shah slams opposition alliance; Kejriwal says BJP backstabbed Delhiites

New Delhi: Shah says Bill is for welfare of people of national capital, asks Opposition to support it

BY | Friday, 4 August, 2023

The contentious Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to replace the ordinance on transfers and postings of senior officers in the Delhi government was passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday amid a walkout by opposition parties.

After a spirited nearly four-hour-long debate, Union Home Minister Amit Shah took potshots at the opposition parties for joining hands to stall the bill at the behest of the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government which he claimed has been involved in “scams and corruption”.

Soon after the bill was passed by the lower house, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the BJP of backstabbing the people of the national capital and urged them not to believe anything Prime Minister Narendra Modi says.

The bill will now go to Rajya Sabha where the ruling alliance is evenly poised in the numbers game but has the assurance of fence sitters such as Biju Janata Dal of Odisha and YSR Congress Party of Andhra Pradesh. Both the parties supported the bill in Lok Sabha.

Launching a scathing attack on the opposition parties for joining hands against the central government’s move to bring the bill, Shah predicted that once the bill is passed, the opposition alliance will collapse.

“Today India is witnessing the double standards of the opposition. Bills of public interest are not important for them. All of them have gathered today so that a small party does not run away from their alliance.”

The home minister said Delhi has been a Union Territory and had not witnessed any confrontation with the Centre when it was ruled by the BJP and Congress between 1993 and 2015.

“Since 1993, a proper system was running in Delhi because no one had any intention to usurp the power, but in 2015 a government came in Delhi whose aim is not to serve but to fight…. If you want to serve Delhi, then there is nothing to fight about,” he said.

The home minister also listed out a series of alleged scams under the AAP-led Delhi government and claimed that the real intention to oppose the Bill was to cover-up attempts to bring out the truth of its “misdeeds”.

He said the opposition parties were neither worried about democracy nor about the country.

“They just want to save their alliance. That is why all of them are sitting here and taking part in the discussion,” he said, reminding the opposition parties that they have been regularly protesting in the House stalling the proceedings ever since the Monsoon session started on July 20.

“Why were you absent when earlier bills were being passed? This bill is important because it is damaging your ally (AAP). But Kejriwal will say bye bye to you after the bill is passed,” he said, referring to Kejriwal.

Shah also took a swipe at the newly-formed opposition bloc – Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA, saying it is more interested in expanding the alliance.

“You may find more allies but I can tell you Modi ji will return to power as prime minister again.

“The entire country is watching those who are secretly helping the Delhi government in scams and corruption to gain their alliance,” he said.

He alleged that the Kejriwal government has not been functioning within rules and it is not even convening assembly sessions regularly.

Shah also invoked first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Congress leaders Sardar Patel, C Rajagopalchari and Rajendra Prasad, contending that these leaders too had opposed the proposal for granting full statehood to Delhi.

The ordinance was promulgated by the central government on May 19, a week after the Supreme Court handed over the control of services in Delhi excluding police, public order and land to the elected government, headed by Kejriwal.

The AAP government has been at loggerheads with the Centre over the control of Group-A and DANICS officers in the National Capital Territory government.

Shah made it clear that the central government has the power to make laws on Union territories and Delhi being a Union territory, the Centre enjoys full rights to make rules for it as well.

“The bill is constitutionally valid and it is for the benefit of the people of Delhi,” he asserted.

He also asked the opposition parties to support the bill, saying it is for the welfare of the people of the national capital.

As the bill was being passed, members of several opposition parties walked out of the House as a mark of protest.

AAP member Sushil Kumar Rinku, who tore a copy of the bill and threw it towards the chair, was subsequently suspended by Speaker Om Birla for the remaining part of the Monsoon session for unruly behaviour.

During his speech, Shah also said the government was ready for a discussion on the situation in violence-hit Manipur for as long as the opposition wants and that he would respond to it.

The Delhi assembly is the only one in the country which does not prorogue, but from 2020 to 2023, it has been convened only for the budget session, Shah said.

Shah said that after the Supreme Court order on the services issue, the Delhi government was not interested on any public welfare programmes but of the vigilance department.

He said this was because it has sensitive files related to the Delhi excise policy scam, about the construction in the chief minister’s bungalow, ‘Sheesh Mahal’, a file related to Rs 90 crore spent on advertisements, a file about the feedback unit created by it.

The Delhi government spent crores of rupees to set up this independent intelligence department despite the fact that the police is not with the Delhi government, he said.

Opposing the bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury cited that Supreme Court judgment that empowered the Delhi government to make decisions regarding civil services in Delhi.

He claimed that if the bill was allowed to pass, then the Centre would overrule elected governments in other states and make decisions for them.

Chowdhury wondered what’s the point of electing MPs and MLAs if it is the bureaucrats who end up running the government. “Please don’t break the system of checks and balances by bringing such a bill,” he said.

A statutory resolution moved in Lok Sabha by the opposition against the Delhi services ordinance was defeated by voice vote.

Intervening during the debate, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture Meenakshi Lekhi said India has a quasi-federal structure with the Centre having primacy.

She said the bill has been brought to statutorily balance the interests of the nation and the Union Territory of Delhi.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor alleged that “blatant subversion of the constitutional separation of powers” was taking place through the bill and said while Modi talks about cooperative federalism, the country was witnessing “coercive federalism”.

Participating in the debate on the bill, he argued that the bill represents a “grave chapter in the history of the Indian republic, seeking to ratify an ordinance that in many ways is an assault on our democratic heritage and the spirit of federalism”.

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