Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Feb 18, 2019, 11.23 AM
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing difficult moments just ahead of the general elections. It was looking to score political points on two issues but had to suffer setbacks in both. First, the Supreme Court has held that the Delhi government — headed by AAP leader and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal — had no powers to constitute commissions of inquiry and that the anti-corruption branch of the government could not investigate cases against central government officials. Second, the Congress has spurned the AAP’s offer for an electoral alliance to jointly take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming polls.
AAP leaders have reacted furiously to the apex court’s ruling, with Kejriwal exclaiming, ‘What sort of verdict is this!” But his party colleague and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh went a step further, wondering whether the court would give a judgement against the Modi regime. There have been demands by AAP’s detractors to slap a contempt of court case against the Rajya Sabha member. So far the court has not taken note of the remarks, and some BJP leaders have said the party would take a call soon on moving a contempt plea.
In February 2015, soon after the AAP government took charge for a second time, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs issues a notification that services would be under the purview of the Lieutenant Governor, who is a representative of the central government. The notification also stated that the state’s anti-corruption branch would not register cases against central government employees, let alone investigate those instances. In August 2016, following AAP’s appeal, the Delhi High Court snubbed AAP by ruling that the Lt Governor was the administrative head.
The matter went to the Supreme Court, and in July 2018, the court said that the Lt Governor would retain powers in matters related to police, public order and land, but that decisions of the elected regime did not require the Lt Governor’s concurrence. While this last ruling was exploited as a ‘victory’ by all sides, the confusion over the powers of the Lt Governor and the elected government remained largely unaddressed.
The February 14 order is clearer, and yet one issue remains unsettled: That of controlling authority over the administrative services. The two-judge bench which delivered the latest ruling was divided on whether the state regime had powers over the administrative cadre of the rank below joint secretary, and a larger Bench will now look into the matter. Thus, while the AAP can still hope for a favourable verdict on this count, it's on the backfoot for the moment. Its opponents have hailed the court order and claimed it is a slap on the face of an ‘anarchist Kejriwal’ and his government.
The second setback, that of the Congress’s refusal to align with the AAP, is equally embarrassing for Delhi’s ruling party. The Delhi unit of the Congress under its new leader Sheila Dikshit is not keen on any understanding with the AAP in the state. Kejriwal has had the mortification of being snubbed openly on the matter, and he has had to concede that so far, his desire to have a pact with the Congress to contain the BJP has not gone anywhere. Kejriwal seems to have forgotten the anti-graft campaign he had been a prominent part of, against the then Dikshit regime in Delhi — a campaign that eventually fetched his power in Delhi and the chief ministership too. Then he had threatened to jail the senior Congress leader.
But why is the AAP over-eager to tie up with the Congress, when it claims to have the overwhelming support of the people? How is it that a party which has a near monopoly in numbers in the Delhi Assembly, has to crave for support from another party which has no representation from Delhi, either in the Lok Sabha or in the Assembly? There are two essential reasons. The first is that the AAP fears a washout in Delhi, similar to the one in 2014 — the best-case scenario could be a seat or two. The second is that unlike in 2014, the party’s prospects in Punjab, which gave it four MPs, are bleak. The AAP’s Punjab affairs are in a shambles, with various party leaders having left the organisation. Besides, the Congress led by Captain Amarinder Singh is sitting pretty in the state; let alone the AAP, even the BJP-Akali Dal combine will find it difficult to counter the Chief Minister.
Five years ago, the AAP had first formed the government with the Congress’s outside backing and soon enough ended the arrangement after ‘apologising’ to the people for the mistake (of having taken the support). Then, the parting of ways clicked for the AAP as it stormed back to power. Today it needs the Congress to remain relevant in the Lok Sabha. How things change!
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)