First big blow to INDIA bloc; Kejriwal cries foul


New Delhi: The Delhi services bill secured parliamentary approval on Monday after the Rajya Sabha passed the contentious measure that will give the Centre control over bureaucracy in the national capital, with the BJP-led NDA thwarting opposition challenge in the keenly-watched numbers game.

The bill that seeks to replace an ordinance was approved 131-102 during voting as the BJD and the YSR Congress Party backed the government in an exercise that was seen as a first major test for opposition unity after the formation of the 26-party alliance INDIA last month to challenge the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Replying to a six-hour emotionally charged debate, Home Minister Amit Shah said the bill handling the transfers and postings of officials in the Delhi government has been brought to safeguard the rights of the people and not to usurp the power of the AAP government. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last week.

Asserting that the bill does not violate the Supreme Court judgement in any manner and that it seeks to provide efficient and corruption-free governance and protect rights of citizens of the national capital, Shah also assured the members that there is not even a single provision that changes the status of the system prevailing since the Congress regime.

The BJP and its allies got a boost as the BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, and the YSRCP, which is in power in Andhra Pradesh, with nine MPs each, supported the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023. The ordinance that preceded the bill was at the centre of political acrimony for weeks.

On the other hand, the opposition, which brought a wheelchair-bound former prime minister and Congress leader Manmohan Singh and an ailing Sibhu Soren of the JMM to the House to shore up its numbers, got the backing of 102 MPs against the Bill.

During the division of votes, the opposition got less votes than the anticipated 108 and the ruling alliance secured the support of more than the expected 128-129 MPs.

The Rajya Sabha has a current strength of 238 and there are seven vacancies.

Members of the opposition alliance INDIA slammed the Centre over the bill, saying the proposed legislation was “unconstitutional” and against the spirit of federalism.

The opposition bloc also got support from Telanagana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s BRS, which saw the bill as a move to usurp powers of an elected government in Delhi.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the passage of the bill a “black day” for the Indian democracy and accused the BJP-ruled Centre of trying to usurp power in Delhi through “back doors”.

in a video message, the AAP supremo accused the BJP of backstabbing the people of Delhi.

The BJP on its part said the legislation will end the “anarchist aadmi party’s heinous misuse of power” to intimidate government servants for their “corrupt objectives”.

In his reply, Shah, who launched a scathing attack on the AAP and the Congress, said the urgency of first bringing an ordinance and now the bill was to stop Delhi’s ruling AAP from transferring officials connected to the probe into the Rs 2,000-crore liquor “scam”.

The BJP is in power in several states and does not need to usurp power in Delhi, he said responding to a charge that has been repeatedly levelled by the opposition.

The Supreme Court had on May 11 ruled that the elected government of Delhi has control over services in the national capital, excluding the matters relating to public order, police and land.

On May 19, the Centre promulgated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 to create an authority for the transfer and posting of Group-A officers in Delhi.

The bill will now go to the President for her assent before it becomes a law.

“We have not brought this bill to grab power for the Centre. The Delhi government is trying to encroach on the Centre’s powers and the bill has been brought to legally stop them from doing so,” Shah said.

“We had to bring this bill as lawlessness had crept into Delhi’s governance,” he said, adding that for several years such a problem never cropped up even when there were opposing governments of the Congress and the BJP at the Centre and Delhi.

Shah accused the Congress of opposing a constitutional amendment it had brought earlier only to appease its alliance partners for political reasons.

On the charge of the bill being undemocratic, the home minister hit out at the Congress saying it has no right to lecture on democracy as it had taken away the rights of the common people by imposing Emergency in 1975.

The bill was passed after motions to send the proposed legislation to a select committee of the House, as well as amendments proposed by opposition members, were rejected by voice vote.

“The motion is adopted and the bill is passed,” announced Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh after announcing the result of the division of votes sought by opposition members.

Soon after, BJP MPs chanted “Modi, Modi” and thumped desks.

A controversy erupted over one of the motions moved by AAP MP Raghav Chadha with at least four MPs, including Sasmit Patra of BJD and M Thambidurai of AIADMK, complaining that their names were included in the proposed select committee on the Delhi services bill without their consent.

Shah said the inclusion of their names without consent was a fraud with Parliament and needs to be probed.

On this, Singh said the issue will be probed but did not give the details immediately.

Shah attacked the AAP, saying, “The AAP is sitting on the same Congress party’s lap which originally introduced the provisions that are included in the bill today. Just to appease the AAP, Congress is opposing its own laws.” Shah also slammed the opposition alliance INDIA, saying, “What ideology does the opposition talk about? The AAP was formed opposing the Congress but today they stand together. As per which ideology the Trinamool Congress is siding with the Communists as it was formed while opposing it. The Congress and Communist bay for each other’s blood in Kerala but here they are performing ‘ILU ILU’. The JD-U was formed to oppose fodder scams but today they are allies with the RJD”.

“They are together because they know that they cannot achieve anything electorally as individual parties. But they have united just to show numbers. But even then Modi Ji will win the election in 2024,” he added.

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