AAP today hit out at the ruling BJP at the Centre and accused it of undermining democratic institutions in the country by not allowing elected governments to assert themselves.
At a panel discussion on Centre-state relations in the wake of a tussle between the AAP government in Delhi and the Lt Governor over the appointment of an acting Chief Secretary, AAP leader Ashutosh charged that the manner in which officials are removed "overnight" by NDA government betrays a "dangerous attitude".
Responding to the AAP attack, BJP national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said at the event organised by the Indian Women's Press Corp here that the Arvind Kejriwal-led party should work with "responsibility" instead of engaging in the "politics of conflict".
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said for his part that AAP and BJP could have avoided the row while JD(U) MP KC Tyagi called for a fresh debate on Centre-state relations and the roles of the Lt Governor and the Delhi Chief Minister.
CPI(M) central committee member Jogendra Sharma, meanwhile, maintained that the people of Delhi will not get their democratic rights until the city gets full statehood, an issue which BJP said was technically complicated.
Referring to the row over the appointment of officials, Ashutosh said, "The way institutions are being undermined in a systematic way, the way the parliamentary set up is being undermined, whichever institution tries to assert itself should not have the right... That is the attempt."
There is, he said, a need to discuss whether a democratically-elected chief minister should have more primacy in Delhi as compared to an "unelected" Lt Governor. He also expressed concern over the chief minister not being allowed to pick an official of his choice.
"We are not going into the debate on full statehood for Delhi... But we are saying give us whatever rights are available to us. We are only saying restore whatever is available to us legally, constitutionally, democratically. When we assert this, we get a notification," Ashutosh said.
He was referring to the notification issued by the Union Home Ministry of Home Affairs spelling out the Delhi Lt Governor's powers vis-a-vis the transfer/posting of officials.
Rejecting Ashutosh's charge, BJP's Trivedi pointed to the principle of "co-operative federalism" being advocated by the Narendra Modi government and said that the chief ministers of the states were being included in the NITI Aayog, the body which has replaced the Planning Commission.
Before the Aayog came into existence, Trivedi said, chief ministers had to remain satisfied with what the Planning Commission offered. He also said that the Centre gave to the states "100 per cent" revenue generated from the allocation of coal mines.
"If any government thinks that the Centre is hampering the rights of states, then they can go to court. You have legislative tools, legal tools, use them. Big parties should (work with) responsibility. If you engage in politics of conflict, then it percolates down. We should understand our responsibilities.
"Things are clear in the Constitution. If you still have doubts, you meet the Lt Governor, approach the Centre or the court. But if you go for other option, then the intention seems to be different," he said.
Trivedi, however, maintained that the Centre would have the upper hand in case of "differences" over any issue.
"If local bodies take on state governments, will they prevail? So, there is a limit that if conflict occurs... If there is any difference on any issue, Centre is above (all)," he said.
Speaking about the demand for statehood for Delhi, Trivedi said the issue involved technical questions, including whether the state government would be able to tackle problems like terrorism.
"Today is the era of globalisation. You show one country's national capital which is not under the central government. So, few things need to be looked at practically," he added.
Maken said that both BJP and AAP made "insensitive" statements during the tussle over Principal Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin's appointment as the acting Delhi Chief Secretary was "insensitive".
He also took a dig at AAP, saying that Congress had issues with Transaction of Rules but worked within it and got elected thrice. Maken also said that AAP will have to engage in "politics of content" than "politics of conflict".
Tyagi recommended that the "ceremonial post" of the Lt Governor be done away with.
Constitutional expert and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who too took part in the discussion, said he found the Union Home Ministry's notification -- that services fall under the Lt Governor's ambit -- to be "constitutionally impermissible".