Penny wise pound foolish, is a well-known adage, applied to someone trying to save a penny while remaining ignorant of greater loss in that event. The Congress dithering over supporting AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal and his government in Delhi against the Delhi ordinance brought by the Union Government led by PM Narendra Modi reminds us about the adage, as it is reflected in the discourse within the Congress over the issue treating it as merely a political issue between the BJP and AAP in which Congress needs to defend its political interest.
It is a greatly unfortunate and unbelievable thing that a national political party such as Indian National Congress and its leaders have reduced themselves to such a narrow outlook on politics from a very high pedestal of political thoughts and public interest it had achieved formerly during pre and post-independence era in the country.
Put it as simple as in this statement – denying power to elected government over its official is denying democracy to the people. It does not matter which party is elected. Since elected governments may change but the denial the democratic power of people to self-rule through ordinance that is likely to become law will stay against the citizen even after the present incumbent elected AAP government will be thrown out of power.
Therefore, it is quite clear that the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023, promulgated on May 19, that nullifies the unanimous May 11 judgement of the five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India that had restored the power of the elected government in Delhi over services excluding the three – police, law and order, and land – that remained with Centre through it nominated Lieutenant Governor.
Had the Congress read the judgement rightly, it would have known that even the Constitution Bench had not considered the issue narrowly as an issue between the AAP and BJP, but has focussed on greater issues involved in it. And the Supreme Court was right. A citizen cannot be treated as merely a voter or reduced to vote only, but not giving their representatives power over the officials, which is clearly anti-democratic.
It was in this backdrop, Supreme Court had categorically said that the Centre can’t take over governance, and the real power must stay with elected government of the state. Delhi government, similar to other states represent the representative form of government and any further expansion of the Union’s power will be contrary to the Constitutional Scheme of the country. Moreover, if the officers stop reporting to the ministers or do not abide by their directions, the principle of collective responsibility is affected. The Bench has also ruled that the LG cannot have all encompassing administrative supervision over all issues, and said that LG’s powers do not empower him to interfere with the legislative powers of the Delhi assembly and elected government.
States too have the power, the Bench said, … it has to be ensured that the governance of States is not taken over by the Union of India. The principle of democracy and federalism form a part of basic structure of the Constitution, that ensures the survival of diverse interests and accommodate diverse needs.
Entire issue is thus about citizens right in democracy, and the rights of their elected governments in a state, which Modi government has annulled through the Delhi Ordinance. It is not in reality, against AAP, which happens to be governing in Delhi. Central interference through its appointee governors is not seen only against AAP but all the political parties including the Congress that are ruling several states of the country. The threat of this ordinance is bigger than the Congress leaders of Delhi and Punjab seem to acknowledge due to their narrow political interests – merely BJP vs AAP, and their enmity to AAP in both the states. Reducing the issue to this level would be a grave mistake of the Congress leaders.
Though Congress is dithering over support to AAP government in Delhi led by Arvind Kejriwal, there is still a hope that Central leadership would be able to understand the real import of the threat of the Ordinance to the people. As of now, Congress is unlikely to support AAP on this issue, as the Congress leaders from Delhi and Punjab have advised the Central Congress leadership not to have any alliance with AAP, calling it to be B-team of BJP. Kejriwal has however requested a meeting with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi to seek their support against the ordinance. Several Congress leaders are of the opinion that supporting AAP will harm their party not only in Delhi and Punjab, but in others states too. However, it has been reported that Congress high command would will take a final call on the matter after meeting party leaders from other states, indicating that they are weighing party interest over the national interest and the interests of the citizens.
In the meantime, almost all major political parties have been unitedly opposition the Delhi Ordinance and have come along AAP. If Congress does not come forward to along with AAP and other political parties in opposing Modi’s Delhi Ordinance, it would weaken the opposition alliance against Modi led BJP is the forthcoming Lok Sabah election 2024. It should be noted that when Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha in an arguably disproportionately bigger punishment than the offence, Kejriwal and all political parties in opposition has supported him and sympathised as victim. KCR of BRS Telangana and TMC leader Mamata has also come along with opposition showing unity against the undemocratic Ordinance. Congress must take this opportunity for grand opposition alliance against Modi during Lok Sabha election 2024. Congress can’t or should not allow itself to be alienated from bigger opposition alliance.
The Delhi Ordinance would come soon in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament of India as a Bill where BJP seems to be comfortably placed in Lok Sabha in terms of numbers. In the Rajya Sabha, NDA has only 106 votes (BJP’s 93) out of 230. It would fall short of 120 to get the bill passed. There is therefore a very good chance that the opposition could block this bill in the Upper House if they remain united. However, there are five nominated members in the Upper House, who may support NDA. Opposition has 106 votes, including AAP’s 10, but excluding YSRCP, BJD, BSP, TDP and JD (S) having 21 members altogether. YSRCP and BJD has 9 members each, and if 18 of them support BJP along with five nominated, the Modi government could get the bill passed with 129 votes. BSP, TDP, and JDS has one member each, and they are non-committal so far.
Given this scenario, the opposition needs to reach all parties to defeat the Bill in the Parliament in the public and national interest and to defend democratic rights of the citizens and the democratic federalism of the states. Congress must not see it merely as an issue related to AAP, and must oppose the Delhi Ordinance, and if possible, come out in the open for grand alliance of the opposition and be ready for some give and take. Penny wise Pound foolish attitude is self-defeating even for the Congress. (IPA Service)