AAP vs Centre Row: Democracy Lives! But Let’s Hope it Lasts
Let’s hope Modi ji invites Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for the next metro inauguration in Delhi.
This Fourth of July will go down as a memorable day in the history of Delhi. On this day, the Supreme Court decreed that the administration of Delhi will be run in accordance with the workings of the elected government, and not on the directions of a bureaucrat.
This a victory for democracy and proves that India’s institutions still have life in them. The only regret for the people of Delhi will be that this order has come so late.
If it had come earlier, the condition of administration in Delhi wouldn’t have deteriorated to this extent. In the last three years, the Lt Governor, at the behest of the Modi government, has paralysed Delhi’s elected AAP government.
A Hamstrung Delhi Govt
The people of Delhi suffered unnecessarily. Development stopped. Hopefully, with the Supreme Court verdict, the Delhi administration will run more smoothly.
Delhi’s administration suffered due to three decisions.
One, soon after the Aam Aadmi Party came to power, the central government ordered that the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) will come under their direction and not under Delhi’s elected government, which was strange in itself.
During AAP’s first government, the ACB was under the Delhi government. During the Sheila Dixit and BJP governments too the ACB came under the elected state government.
Second, a few months later, the central government decreed that the state’s bureaucrats will report o the Lt Governor and not the elected government. This meant that the Delhi government wouldn’t have the right to transfer the bureaucrats or decide on their posting or even discipline them. That right was given to the Lt Governor. Which would essentially mean that the bureaucracy would be controlled not by the elected government, but by those who are not answerable to the people.
Third, the biggest mischief in this entire issue was caused by the Delhi High Court’s decision.
The court said that the Lt Governor is not bound to follow the Cabinet’s decisions. This decision created a strange situation in Delhi – the people elected AAP, made Arvind Kejriwal the Chief Minister, but the government would be run by those who were not elected. This decision went against the country’s democratic traditions and the core spirit of the constitution.
Lt Governor Holding Delhi’s Reigns
After these three decisions, it was the Lt Governor who started to boss over Delhi. This has never happened before with any government in the country. Not only that, the Lt Governor, whether it was Najib Jung or Anil Baijal, used to call the bureaucrats and influence them, telling them to think about their careers – that Kejriwal’s government can crumble at any point of time, but Modi will be in Delhi for fifteen years. These bureaucrats would come privately and tell the government's representatives. They used to say that their hands are tied. An atmosphere of fear was created.
Ministers were made completely useless. Officers started sending files directly to the Lt Governor without going through ministers.
Decisions would be made without the ministers even hearing about them. Important files were left hanging for months. Any step, any work that could have made the AAP government look good was obstructed; the prime example of this being the Mohalla clinics. The Former UN General Secretary even wrote a letter praising this move. But all work towards these clinics was stalled.
It is also clear from the SC’s judgment that irrespective of whether Delhi’s officers are centrally appointed IAS or from some other cadre, once their appointment has been made in Delhi, then they have to work in accordance with the elected government. They will not be able to do their own thing. The Lt Governor won’t be able to get them to do his bidding.
Impact of SC Judgment
There are two plus points to this. One, it will be easier for the elected government to do things its way. They will be able to decide on the bureaucracy's accountability. Along with that, accountability for the AAP government will also be in their domain.
Second, the Lt Governor has been given a clear message that there are no kings in a democracy. Only the public is king.
The Delhi police will also get the message that they can’t just arbitrarily arrest AAP MLAs. They will also have to learn to respect the people’s representatives.
And the most important point: the clear message to the central government and the BJP, that victory and defeat are a part of a democracy. A defeat does not mean that the party in power at the Centre should start plotting revenge.
In the end, as a worker of the Aam Aadmi Party, all I can say is that if Modi ji now inaugurates a new metro line in Delhi, he will perhaps at least invite Arvind Kejriwal to it.
Disliking AAP and AAP leaders is one thing, but in a democracy, an elected representative should be respected. The people have chosen him, and insulting the chief minister would be akin to insulting the people’s mandate.
(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B.This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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