A week after the Central government brought in an ordinance to overturn the Supreme Court Constitution bench judgement defining the elected government’s control over services in Delhi, two things stand out - first, the majority of non-NDA parties appear clearly support Delhi’s ruling AAP and second, the AAP seems to be making the mistake of banking on the Congress party’s support against the ordinance.
Moving forward from here, for any keen observer of politics, it is a near certainty that when this ordinance will be introduced as a bill during the Monsoon session to be held in the new Parliament building, its passage in Lok Sabha will be a mere formality and after a few fireworks it will sail through in the Rajya Sabha too without any difficulty, making it a law in a few months from now.
An Opportunity for Congress to Settle Scores
In the 21st Century, no government bill has got stuck in Parliament so far, irrespective of whether NDA or UPA was in power. A brief exciting period was when POTA failed to pass in Rajya Sabha during the Vajpayee era in early 2002, but it sailed through in the joint sitting of both Houses soon after.
The majority of non-NDA parties will support the AAP against the ordinance, but numerically that will hardly make any difference in the Parliament. Also, their support is more to do with their rivalry with the BJP, except for Left parties, which though weakened in terms of numbers, take a principled stand on issues of democracy and federalism.
On the other hand, the main opposition, the Congress, has found an ideal opportunity in the form of this ordinance to settle its original hatred of the AAP. What else can explain the Congress' stand that it will consult its state units on the issue? When was the last time that Congress came out with such an absurd statement over a stand to be taken in Parliament?
Whom will the Congress consult? It's a non-existent Delhi unit and whatever remains in Punjab after so many of its local leaders having already crossed over to the BJP there.
Congress has sensed blood over the ordinance issue and more than anything else - even more than Opposition unity for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, it appears to have finally found an issue over which it can tame and possibly eliminate AAP, a rival which the grand old party was finding difficult to deal with.
Congress' Evident Hypocrisy
The Congress had no problems in taking the AAP support for its Presidential candidate in 2017, Meira Kumar, or for that matter for the joint opposition Presidential candidate in 2022, Yashwant Sinha and vice-presidential candidate, Margaret Alva. Both Meira Kumar and Margaret Alva had personally visited Kejriwal seeking support for their respective elections.
It is no secret that the Congress hates the AAP even more than the BJP. The Congress is not willing to forget that its citadel of 15 years - Delhi, fell to rookie AAP in 2013 when the Congress was dreaming to return in the national capital for the fourth consecutive term.
But, the Congress, however, does not explain why did it offer its support to AAP to form its first-ever government within days of a bitterly fought election, which saw the fall of its mascot late Sheila Dikshit?
Since those 49 days of the Kejriwal government, Congress has failed to win a single MLA or MP in the national capital for a decade now, though Delhi Congress leaders spewing venom over AAP now, made an aborted attempt for a Lok Sabha election alliance in 2019.
If one reads the laughable arguments of Congress leaders in support of the ordinance, it is clear that their intention is to see the AAP government out of Delhi. How else will one explain Congress toeing the BJP line on the Centre’s control over the city’s bureaucracy, forgetting that their own Chief Minister late Sheila Dikshit had publicly protested the transfer of bureaucrats by her own party’s Central government without consulting her in 2012?
Congress Wants its Citadel (Delhi) Back
It is a historical fact that Congress always wanted a powerless government in Delhi since the Vidhan Sabha came into existence in 1993. This is further explained by the silence of the late Sheila Dikshit over statehood for Delhi when she was in power in Delhi and her own party was ruling at the Centre between 2004 and 2014. Though she made a few noises during the Vajpayee regime between 1998 and 2004.
From that stand in the past to having politically evaporated in Delhi, the Congress will be happy to see the national capital return to a complete Union Territory status, since it has no stakes left now in the city’s politics.
AAP can be faulted for having supported the Centre on Article 370 abrogation in 2019, but was it the support of three Rajya Sabha AAP MPs that led to the passage of the bill? The Congress would want the country to forget the AAP stands against the Triple Talaq and CAA bills since it does not suit the latter.
Ever since AAP stormed to power with highest ever mandate in 2015 and repeated its performance in 2020, Congress has been a trusted BJP ally in Delhi since then. Look at all the complaints filed with the Central agencies against the AAP government and you will get the answer.
Not only Delhi, a close look at the Congress campaign during the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, provides an interesting insight into the extent to which the Congress is ready to go with its ambition of crushing the AAP.
All Congress leaders from Rahul Gandhi to Malikarjun Kharge had latched on to an allegation of former AAP leader Kumar Vishwas that the 2017 AAP campaign in Punjab was with the help of Khalistani elements, which was also echoed by Prime Minister Modi during the campaign.
The Delhi ordinance is no longer a legal, technical issue or a fight over numbers in Parliament. Only a people’s movement can lead to the reversal of this ordinance. Congress will be happy to settle its political enmity over this issue, and the sooner the AAP realises it, the better.
(Nagender Sharma is currently the executive editor of leading podcasting platform earshot.in. He was the Delhi Chief Minister’s media advisor between 2015-20 and has earlier worked for BBC World Service and Hindustan Times. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)