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Rajya Sabha Passes Delhi Services Bill By 131 Votes to 102: 5 Key Takeaways

BJP used the debate to target AAP. On the other hand, there was visible bonhomie within the 'INDIA' coalition.

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The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, has been passed in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, 7 August, with a margin of 131 votes to 102. This will have long-reaching consequences on the administration in Delhi but it is also a significant milestone from the point of view of national politics.

Rajya Sabha Passes Delhi Services Bill By 131 Votes to 102: 5 Key Takeaways

  1. 1. Greater Power for the Lieutenant Governor and the Centre

    The Bill, which will become an Act once it is signed by the president, will significantly curtail the powers of the Delhi government and enhance those of the lieutenant governor.

    The Bill provides for the creation of a National Capital Civil Service Authority to take decisions with respect to the postings and control of civil servants.

    Though headed by the chief minister, the committee also has the chief secretary and home secretary of Delhi. Decisions are to be taken by the majority. Since both are central government officials, there are fears that it would be used by the central government to overrule the Delhi government.

    Also, even after the committee stage, the final say lies with the lieutenant governor, as per the Bill, again placing the elected government at a disadvantage.

    Expand
  2. 2. 'INDIA' Coalition Backs AAP

    The legislation will directly curtain the powers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. However, politically there was a silver lining for the Opposition.

    The barely one-month old INDIA coalition managed to stay united and make its presence felt during the debates in both Houses of Parliament.

    This was especially evident in the Lok Sabha, where AAP had minimal presence. Yet, leaders from the Congress, DMK, TMC, NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), and other INDIA coalition members put up a spirited defence.

    In the Rajya Sabha, 102 votes were cast against the Bill, which means there was no cross-voting from the side of the INDIA alliance.

    Expand
  3. 3. Target AAP

    The BJP made it clear from the get-go that the AAP was the target of the Amendment.

    Home Minister Amit Shah said in both houses of Parliament that the coordination between Centre and state worked fine when the BJP was in power at the Centre and the Congress in the state and vice-versa.

    He even went to the extent of praising three-term Congress CM Sheila Dikshit for 'prioritising development' in the state.

    He said that the need for the Amendment arose because a 'party created after a protest came to power.' He accused the AAP of 'corruption' and 'misuse of power.'

    This is a different argument from merely saying that the Amendment was needed because Delhi is the national capital. It specifically placed the blame with the AAP, despite the fact that the latter has been elected to power twice in the state with a huge majority.

    Shah even jokingly presented himself as a well-wisher of the Congress and warned it not to trust CM Kejriwal.

    Expand
  4. 4. The Fence-Sitters

    A great deal of focus was on the fence-sitting parties – those that are not aligned to either the NDA or the INDIA coalition

    Two of the biggest players in this space – the Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) – threw their lot with the government.

    On the other hand, both the Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi and Hanuman Beniwal's Rashtriya Loktantrik Party opposed the Bill. This was mainly because the two parties independently share a cordial equation with the AAP.

    The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) abstained during the debate while the Shiromani Akali Dal called the Bill a 'farce' and slammed all sides.

    Expand
  5. 5. What Lies Ahead

    There are three aspects to it.

    First, the vote in the Lok Sabha was a foregone conclusion but there was some hope for the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. However, even that became clear that it was in favour of the government once the BJD and YSRCP decided to support the Amendment. Now, the only hope for the AAP government is the Supreme Court, where the matter remains subjudice.

    Second, if the apex court's decision also doesn't go the AAP's way, it would pose a big dilemma for the party. It would not be easy for the party to continue showcasing the Delhi model if it doesn't have control over the administration. In such an eventuality, Kejriwal would have to rebrand himself in some way. Maybe that could lead to a much more central role in national politics.

    Third, from the point of view of the INDIA coalition, this was yet another confidence-building measure. The parties in the coalition coordinated well in Parliament and this became a dry run for the No Confidence Motion discussion on Manipur that is expected to take place from 8-10 August. The debate on the Amendment brought the parties closer together, especially strengthening trust between the AAP and Congress. Many AAP leaders now acknowledge that the Congress effectively backed it in both Houses.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Greater Power for the Lieutenant Governor and the Centre

The Bill, which will become an Act once it is signed by the president, will significantly curtail the powers of the Delhi government and enhance those of the lieutenant governor.

The Bill provides for the creation of a National Capital Civil Service Authority to take decisions with respect to the postings and control of civil servants.

Though headed by the chief minister, the committee also has the chief secretary and home secretary of Delhi. Decisions are to be taken by the majority. Since both are central government officials, there are fears that it would be used by the central government to overrule the Delhi government.

Also, even after the committee stage, the final say lies with the lieutenant governor, as per the Bill, again placing the elected government at a disadvantage.

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'INDIA' Coalition Backs AAP

The legislation will directly curtain the powers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. However, politically there was a silver lining for the Opposition.

The barely one-month old INDIA coalition managed to stay united and make its presence felt during the debates in both Houses of Parliament.

This was especially evident in the Lok Sabha, where AAP had minimal presence. Yet, leaders from the Congress, DMK, TMC, NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), and other INDIA coalition members put up a spirited defence.

In the Rajya Sabha, 102 votes were cast against the Bill, which means there was no cross-voting from the side of the INDIA alliance.

0

Target AAP

The BJP made it clear from the get-go that the AAP was the target of the Amendment.

Home Minister Amit Shah said in both houses of Parliament that the coordination between Centre and state worked fine when the BJP was in power at the Centre and the Congress in the state and vice-versa.

He even went to the extent of praising three-term Congress CM Sheila Dikshit for 'prioritising development' in the state.

He said that the need for the Amendment arose because a 'party created after a protest came to power.' He accused the AAP of 'corruption' and 'misuse of power.'

This is a different argument from merely saying that the Amendment was needed because Delhi is the national capital. It specifically placed the blame with the AAP, despite the fact that the latter has been elected to power twice in the state with a huge majority.

Shah even jokingly presented himself as a well-wisher of the Congress and warned it not to trust CM Kejriwal.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Fence-Sitters

A great deal of focus was on the fence-sitting parties – those that are not aligned to either the NDA or the INDIA coalition

Two of the biggest players in this space – the Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) – threw their lot with the government.

On the other hand, both the Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi and Hanuman Beniwal's Rashtriya Loktantrik Party opposed the Bill. This was mainly because the two parties independently share a cordial equation with the AAP.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) abstained during the debate while the Shiromani Akali Dal called the Bill a 'farce' and slammed all sides.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What Lies Ahead

There are three aspects to it.

First, the vote in the Lok Sabha was a foregone conclusion but there was some hope for the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. However, even that became clear that it was in favour of the government once the BJD and YSRCP decided to support the Amendment. Now, the only hope for the AAP government is the Supreme Court, where the matter remains subjudice.

Second, if the apex court's decision also doesn't go the AAP's way, it would pose a big dilemma for the party. It would not be easy for the party to continue showcasing the Delhi model if it doesn't have control over the administration. In such an eventuality, Kejriwal would have to rebrand himself in some way. Maybe that could lead to a much more central role in national politics.

Third, from the point of view of the INDIA coalition, this was yet another confidence-building measure. The parties in the coalition coordinated well in Parliament and this became a dry run for the No Confidence Motion discussion on Manipur that is expected to take place from 8-10 August. The debate on the Amendment brought the parties closer together, especially strengthening trust between the AAP and Congress. Many AAP leaders now acknowledge that the Congress effectively backed it in both Houses.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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