The Centre has brought in the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act (GNCTD), making it clear that the “government” in Delhi means the “Lieutenant Governor”.
Through this Act, the Centre has made it mandatory that the Delhi government will have to seek the LG’s opinion on any executive decisions passed in the cabinet, curtailing the power of the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tells Outlook they are seeking legal advice to challenge the Act. Incidentally, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had supported the Centre's move on abrogation of Article 370 and converting the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. While Sisodia answered all the questions regarding GNCTD in detail, he did not take the question on AAP's stand on Article 370.
Q) How will the passing of the GNCTD Bill impact the power equation between the elected government and the Lieutenant Governor, chosen by the Centre?
This Bill is just another way for BJP-led central government to obstruct Delhi’s progress. BJP doesn’t want to see good schools, hospitals, mohalla clinics being made in Delhi. They don’t want that the people of Delhi should have free electricity and water. Owing to the fact that the Aam Aadmi Party is providing accessible facilities and provisions to the people of Delhi, citizens of other states are imploring their governments to follow the Delhi model and provide basic facilities. Why are other states not being able to allocate schemes and initiatives for its people like the Delhi Government has? The BJP-led central government is insecure of its position because of such tough questions being raised by the citizens of this nation. This is why they have passed this unconstitutional NCT Bill so they can create roadblocks in our work and stop Delhi’s growth.
Q) You have been fighting for full statehood but now the Delhi government has been subsumed under Centre’s command with LG being defined as “the government”. Why do you think this has been done?
The Arvind Kejriwal Model of Governance is one of the most sought-after governance and top-down leadership model in the nation. The Modi Model has failed in front of this model. Modiji’s BJP government is alarmed by the rising popularity of Arvind Kejriwal as the leader of the people and people of the nation have started viewing Arvind Kejriwal as an alternative to Modiji. Inspired by the governance of Arvind Kejriwal, people have now started voting for AAP in the local body elections ---- our victories in Surat and Goa are clear examples of people choosing politics of work instead of empty promises. Citizens have consistently, for 6 years, voted against BJP in the Vidhan Sabha elections and our victory in recent MCD byelections are a clear signal that BJP’s superficial politics is coming to an end. So now, the BJP is taking the backdoor and going against the rights and decisions of the citizens of Delhi who voted for the elected Delhi government. By introducing this NCT Bill, the BJP has gone against the judgment of the Supreme Court, it has gone against the Constitution which assures a federal structure in the nation. This unconstitutional Bill is a clear indication of BJP’s fear towards the rising popularity of Arvind Kejriwal and his model of governance.
Q) Are you going to approach the Supreme Court against the Bill that goes against the July 2018 ruling of the Constitution Bench?
We are currently in the process of seeking advice from legal experts on this topic.
Q) Citing the delay in adjudication on the abrogation of Article 370, some legal experts do not see much hope of you getting any relief from the court any time soon. Are you in for a long-drawn battle?
Our fight against this unconstitutional bill will be legal and political. People of Delhi are aware that the central government is going against the Constitution.
Q) Every decision, prior to July 2018 order, was a fight for you. You had to sit on a dharna to get a file on CCTV cameras signed by the LG. Will it be back to the agitation mode for you and your party?
The birth of the Aam Aadmi Party was out of a movement. A movement against corruption and for the nation. The chief minister and I have continuously fought for the people of this nation even before AAP. Even after being elected we have continued our good fight. The central government, through the LG, acted as an obstructionist in every decision that the Delhi government made until 2018. They created hurdles in our Mohalla Clinic initiative. They tried to stop us from installing CCTV cameras for the security of the people. Irrespective of the discreditable acts of the BJP, I know for a fact that our Kejriwalji is a fighter, and as always, he will emerge from this fight as the leader of the people.
Q) What does the Bill forebode for future governments in Delhi? Will elections to the Delhi Assembly be reduced to a mere formality with reversal of roles and the CM being a titular head?
I think it’s clear that people of this nation, but especially the people of Delhi, have understood that the BJP is a party full of empty promises. This is why Delhi has consistently voted against BJP. This move by the BJP to dilute the powers of an elected state government is unconstitutional and by effect would ensure that the Delhi government has no say in Delhi’s legislative or administrative matters. The introduction of this Bill is nothing but insecurity and fear of the BJP because of the rising popularity of the Kejriwal model of governance. Wherever BJP lost state elections, they bought MLAs or used unconstitutional means to attain power but they know this is not possible in Delhi. Hence, through this Bill, they want to ensure that they gain power in Delhi. If this is how the BJP wants to come into power, then what is the point of elections? If an elected chief minister, voted by the people of Delhi does not have a say in the matters of the state, then what is the point of even conducting elections? The BJP has just created an illusion of democracy in our nation.
Q) How will the new law impact the decisions already announced by you, including on the new education board for Delhi, the new excise policy etc?
We have taken some key decisions and our work on the matter is ongoing. We will navigate through whatever situations or challenges are presented before us and we know for a fact that we will not let anything come in the way of Delhi’s progress.
Q) With the powers of the elected government curtailed, how do you propose to continue with your development agenda?
Our citizens voted for us because of our honest and committed politics, because of our politics of work. Regardless of the many barriers Modiji, via LG, has appointed, we will ensure that the work for the progress of Delhi does not stop. The people of Delhi voted for us for the growth of this city and we will continue to dedicate ourselves to this vision.
Q) Did the Bill come as a surprise to you since you had almost declared a truce with the central government and were not getting into a confrontational mode?
It’s astonishing to see that while the BJP speaks of collaborative actions, it acts as an obstructionist in the work of an elected government. A government has been repeatedly chosen by the people for the progress of Delhi.
Q) Several people are saying, first it was Jammu and Kashmir, now Delhi…Where will it stop?
Modiji’s BJP Government has regularly been failing at keeping their promises or doing work for the people. Their politics is now the politics of lies. The BJP-led central government has not done anything for the well-being of the people. Their government has just exacerbated our poverty and economic crises.
Q) Do you think it will have an impact on cooperative federalism? There have been other issues before this, including the CAA, NRC, GST and the farm laws that have raised the issue of weakening of federalism. Where do you think we are headed as a country?
Definitely. The central government has just weakened our nation’s constitutional and democratic processes since the time it has come into power. Our youth today is on the road while trying to find employment, our farmers are on the road trying to protect their fundamental rights, traders & businesses have been hit hard first by GST & demonetisation and then the lockdown. Today, our people are facing one of the toughest economic crisis and basic amenities given to people are being stalled. What is the Government doing to fix this? The central government has done a great job at diverting people’s attention from these crises by introducing new schemes and promises.
Q) AAP has been steadily gaining ground, making its present felt in Punjab, Haryana and has made inroads into Gujarat. Where do you see the party in the next few years?
People are inspired by Arvind Kejriwal’s model of governance. We don’t believe in politics of lies and corruption, we believe in the politics of work. We are getting appreciated by people in other states and they are inspired by Delhi’s model of education and health. People have understood that they have been lied to on the pretext of ‘good governance’ and this is why they are now voting for the Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat, Goa, Punjab, Haryana, etc. People have started viewing Kejriwalji as a good alternative to Modiji. This is a show of dedicated and honest politics, a government that works for the people of the nation.
Q) Do you think, AAP's performance in Gujarat had something to do with the Bill?
Yes, Modiji was the CM of Gujarat for 15 years and has been the PM of our nation for the last 6 years. Although the BJP has been in power for the last 26 years in Gujarat, they have not done anything to improve the abysmal conditions of the schools and hospitals in Gujarat. People in Gujarat continue to pay high prices for electricity. They are tired of BJP’s empty promises and lies. People voted for the Aam Aadmi Party in Surat as a result of their increased disillusionment with the BJP. And this very victory, our victory in Surat is the reason behind BJP’s growing insecurities and fear. This Bill is an indication of this.
Q) With Delhi Government being made a cipher, does Punjab become more important in your scheme of things?
We have been given a responsibility by the people of Delhi and we will fulfil it no matter what. If that means fighting from streets to the courts to secure the power of government elected by the people, we will do it. AAP's campaign in other states has no bearing with what happens in Delhi. In Punjab, people gave us the responsibility of being the Opposition party in the very first time we fought the state elections in 2017. Now they have made up their minds to vote out Capt. Amarinder-led Congress government, which delivered nothing in the last 4 years and even colluded with the BJP at the Centre to pass the three black farm laws. People of Punjab have decided to bring AAP to power and see the Kejriwal model of governance implemented in Punjab as well.
Q) You have been accused of trying to appropriate the nationalism plank from the BJP and also following soft Hindutva, as seen by your ‘desh-bhakti’ budget and the promise of ‘Ram Rajya’. Are you trying to counter-position yourself in the nationalist, Hindutva mould?
What is fundamental our party is that we uphold the ideals of the Constitution while keeping Lord Ram in our hearts. When Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ji spoke about bringing Ram Rajya to Delhi, the so called flag-bearers of Hindutva got perplexed. I want to tell these people that only talking about Ram Rajya is not deshbhakti for us, in fact progress and growth of Delhi is deshbhakti. Educating students and teaching them is deshbhakti, accessible and quality schooling is deshbhakti, healthcare for all citizens and Mohalla Clinics, especially for our women of Delhi is deshbhakti, installing 500 tirangas and respecting those standing under the tiranga is deshbhakti. We don’t believe in making people feel small, we believe that treating everyone equally and respecting all is deshbhakti. Providing free electricity and water to our citizens is deshbhakti, and ensuring that our roads are clean and safe for all is deshbhakti. We want to provide meaningful employment opportunities to our youth and our traders, which I believe is true deshbhakti.
Q) You have said that the GNCTD Bill shows Narendra Modi government is feeling insecure because of CM Arvind Kejriwal and his work, and that it is an attempt to stop him from being seen as an option to Modi. Do you see Arvind Kejriwal as an option to PM Modi in the next few years?
It is a fact that BJP today has no response to the Arvind Kejriwal model of governance that has transformed education, healthcare system in just 5 years and provides free water, electricity and transport for women. Today, everywhere we go, people are saying do what you have done in Delhi in our state as well. It is the people of our country that have grown tired of being cheated by Congress and BJP both, and who see a ray of hope only in AAP and Arvind Kejriwal. It is they who are seeing Arvind Kejriwal today as an option to Modi. Whether he will become PM or not, it is for the people of our country to decide.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine