Arvind Kejriwal is the Boss but AAP-Centre Tussle Continues

Arvind Kejriwal can no longer play the ‘victim-card’ & point fingers at the Modi government.

4 min read
Hindi Female

There’s no sweeter victory for Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party in their bitter tussle with the Lt Governor and the BJP than the Supreme Court judgment upholding the supremacy of the elected government in Delhi.


AAP’s Political & Legal Win

The apex court has drawn clear red lines for the L-G to point out that he has no independent decision-making powers except on the three reserved subjects of land, public order and police, as stated in the constitutional amendment granting statehood to Delhi. The L-G, it said, is bound to act on the aid and advice of the state government, which no longer needs his concurrence for decisions that fall within its purview.

In fact, the court rapped the L-G on the knuckles for being ‘obstructionist’, even as it appealed to both sides to work harmoniously.

The judgment is a huge legal and political victory for AAP. Just how huge, is evident from the protestations of the BJP and the Congress. Neither was willing to acknowledge that the court had set right an anomaly that had virtually brought governance to a standstill, as the L-G and Arvind Kejriwal battled it out to settle the debate on who’s the boss.

The honourable way forward after the judgment, keeping in mind the welfare and interests of Delhi’s 20 million residents, would be for the BJP and Congress to step back – and let the Kejriwal government function, while keeping a close watch to hold it accountable.

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld his supremacy, Arvind Kejriwal has no excuses any more to play victim and blame the Modi government and L-G for blocking his plans. Indeed, a politically shrewd move would be for the Modi government to replace the L-G and the Chief Secretary. Both have become symbols of the obstructionism the Supreme Court slammed. A fresh start would put the ball squarely in Kejriwal’s court while making the BJP look conciliatory.


Power Struggle Isn’t Over Yet

However, it seems the power tussle in Delhi is far from over. Statements from BJP spokespersons sound cussed, and suggest that the battle to reclaim Delhi from AAP is likely to continue. So, even as Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party supporters celebrate with sweets, tweets and victory dances, at least three challenges stare them in the face:

One is the BJP’s insistence that the court has reiterated the L-G’s right to differ with decisions of the state government and take these differences to the President of India for resolution.

The insinuation here is that the Kejriwal government doesn’t have absolute power and the L-G can put a spoke in its plans if he disagrees.

While this is true (technically), the court has made it clear that this power of the L-G “represents the exception and not the general rule’’. The BJP has chosen to disregard the fine print to stress that nothing has changed with the Supreme Court judgment and the L-G can and will intervene when necessary.

The second is the lack of clarity on the notifications issued by the Union Home Ministry, and former L-G Najib Jung taking services and the Anti Corruption Bureau away from the Chief Minister. These notifications were issued in 2015 shortly after Arvind Kejriwal assumed office, and form the crux of the tussle between the state government and the L-G.


What Next for Kejriwal & AAP?

The loss of the Anti Corruption Bureau meant that Kejriwal could not continue his anti-corruption crusade which was his main USP. The loss of services stripped him of all powers to post and transfer officials in his government. He could no longer appoint a chief secretary of his choosing, or a principal secretary, or a private secretary or even an attendant in his office. These decisions were passed on to the L-G, causing frequent friction between the two power centres in Delhi.

While the Supreme Court has dealt with constitutional issues arising out of the L-G versus CM tussle, it has not addressed the status of these notifications.

The legality of these notifications will be looked into by a smaller bench. But until that happens, there is every likelihood that the L-G and Chief Minister will continue to lock horns over postings and transfers. These are the key levers of power. No chief minister can govern without them.

The third is the enormous responsibility that the judgment places on Kejriwal.

The court has reaffirmed that he is the undisputed boss of Delhi, and Aam Aadmi Party supporters are out on the streets celebrating their victory. The time has come for them to deliver. Kejriwal cannot point fingers at the L-G or Modi anymore.

Kejriwal has managed to make himself the poster boy of federalism in the power club of opposition chief ministers, by escalating his troubles in Delhi into a demand for full statehood. Will the BJP and Congress walk into the trap set by him to make this his poll pitch for 2019?

(Click here for live updates on this story.)

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. 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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