Following a row over Delhi Budget 2023-24, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took a dig at the Centre over the objection raised on allocation for advertisement and saying "uneducated" people were posted from top to bottom.
Earlier on Tuesday, AAP and Kejriwal had said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had blocked Delhi's Budget. However, it was reported later that the Budget had been approved. However, Kejriwal responded angrily in the meantime and wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that it was for the first time in 75 years that Delhi's Budget had been stalled.
However, hours after the Budget was approved, along with the dig at Centre's officials, Kejriwal extended an olive branch to the Union government and called Modi as his "elder brother" and added he wanted to work together with the Centre.
What did Kejriwal say?
Kejriwal expressed satisfaction over approval to the Budget for 2023-24, saying "better late than never" and asked what was the need to create an issue over it.
He said, "They said advertisement allocation was higher than that for infrastructure. Uneducated people are sitting from top to bottom. Which is more - Rs 20,000 crore for infrastructure or Rs 500 crore for advertisement?"
Kejriwal also questioned the alleged obstruction by the Centre and Lieutenant Governor (LG) office in delaying the Budget presentation in the Assembly by one day and said it will be tabled in the House on Wednesday now.
He said, "They had raised four queries and we replied without any other change in the Budget. Now they have given approval to it which proves their ego was satisfied that the Delhi government bowed down."
Kejriwal also asserted that the LG has no power to raise any objections, make observations or write anything on a file, saying he was bound by the aid and advice of the Cabinet of the elected government.
Meanwhile, official sources said the issues raised by the LG were addressed by AAP government.
"The Budget file was sent by AAP government to LG office on Monday night. They incorporated and addressed all concerns raised by the LG in his previous communication on March 9. Couldn't they have done this earlier? Was there a need of this drama?" a source said accusing the chief minister of "misleading" the House on the issue.
Kejriwal said Delhi would have seen 10 times more progress had there been no tussles between the Centre and the state government.
He said, "The Delhi government wants to work and not fight. We are tired of fighting and it serves no one. We want to work together with the prime minister, we do not want any tussle."
Kejriwal said if Modi wishes to win Delhi, he will have to win the hearts of the people of the city first. He said this is his mantra for him.
He further said, "You are the elder brother and I am the younger brother. I will reciprocate if you support me. If you want to win the heart of the little brother, love him."
Kejriwal also said the practice of sending the Delhi government's Budget to the Centre for approval is against the basic structure of the Constitution and democracy. He said the provision will not stand judicial scrutiny for "even two minutes".
"The Budget had to be presented today. The Centre stopped it. We replied to MHA's query without making any changes to the Budget and they have approved it now. They wanted me to bow down. It's their ego and nothing else," said Kejriwal.
The chief minister said the Centre's objection to the Budget was a departure from tradition. "It happened for the first time."
"It is an attack on the Constitution. Even B R Ambedkar would not have thought of a situation where the Central government would stop the presentation of a state government's Budget," Kejriwal said.
He also supported a resolution in the House for probe into role of chief secretary, finance secretary and other officials of Delhi government for allegedly sitting over an MHA communication.
"They sat over it for three days and finally informed on March 20 that MHA has raised queries. We could have challenged the objections but despite chaos of this sudden development we replied to the queries and sent the file to the LG," Kejriwal said supporting action against officers concerned.
What's the episode about?
Earlier in the day, sources in the LG office said the MHA had approved the Delhi government's Budget and it was conveyed to the Aam Aadmi Party dispensation.
They also accused Kejriwal, his ministers and the AAP of "deliberately making false statements with the sole purpose of misleading the people of Delhi and the media and distracting them from the failures of the Delhi government".
"He has been saying that the Centre has blocked a state's Budget. This is patently false. Delhi is a Union territory and not a state and therefore it is fully a part and partial of the government of India. Moreover, the Budget has not been blocked," said a source in the LG office.
The AAP on Monday alleged that the Centre had conspired to "stop" the Delhi Budget, with Kejriwal even writing to PM Modi urging him not to do so.
The LG office sources explained the Constitution provides that prior consent and approval of the President is required before laying the Budget of Delhi in the legislative assembly and this has been going on for the last 28 years.
"Fixing the date for the presentation of the Budget before seeking the President's approval for it in itself is wrong and shows mal-intent on part of the AAP government," the source said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that it's for the first time in 75 years that Delhi's Budget had been stalled.
In his letter, Kejriwal said: "This is the first in the last 75 years that a state's budget has been stalled. Why are you upset with Delhiites? Please don't stall Delhi's budget. With folded hands, Delhiites urge you to pass their budget."
(With PTI inputs)