Rallying behind Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government is Congress’ chance to show it cares for federalism

Rallying behind Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government is Congress’ chance to show it cares for federalism

The Opposition’s quest for unity to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019 is self-avowedly based on the principles of saving the Constitution and democracy from subversion, boosting federalism, and fostering social harmony. Most people find it hard to tell whether the Opposition is merely invoking the triple principles to camouflage their insatiable appetite for power.To persuade the people of their intent, the disparate Opposition parties, wishing to unite on a common platform, should rally behind Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government in its bruising battle against the Lieutenant Governor, who’s the Centre’s representative in the city-state. There can be no denying that at stake in their confrontation are the principles of federalism and Constitutionalism.
The choice to support AAP is essentially for the Congress to make, for Delhi’s is a triangular battle involving India’s grand old party, the BJP and AAP. Other Opposition parties are not players in the city-state. This choice is a difficult one for the Congress, which has no love lost for AAP leaders, to whom it has lost a chunk of its support base in Delhi.
Yet, the Congress can’t be seen to be silent or indifferent to the central government’s motivated reading of Constitutional provisions relating to the arrangement of governance in Delhi. Indeed, differences over provisions of the Constitution are nothing new. But the reasons that Lt. Governor Anil Baijal has cited to nix or delay more than 30 proposals of the Delhi government suggest a deliberate attempt to prevent it from functioning smoothly. Some of these reasons border on pettiness and suggest political vendetta.
Take AAP’s proposal to provide doorstep delivery of public services, such as caste or domicile certificates citizens require. Instead of them coming to government offices, AAP suggested it would send “mobile sahayaks” to provide these services to people at their homes. But Baijal declined approval on the ground that mobile sahayaks would increase traffic congestion and hence cause air pollution. Ultimately, though, under media pressure he relented.
Much has been written on how the Lt. Governor slowed the opening up of mohalla clinics. But even this pales in comparison to Kejriwal’s instruction to the health department to hire recruits on contract, particularly pharmacists, to ease the pressure on the staff of government hospitals. The health department drew up a proposal, but refused to show the file to Kejriwal on the orders of the Lt. Governor.Pending is also the Delhi government’s decision, taken in September 2016, to pay Rs 1 crore posthumously to army personnel belonging to Delhi dying in line of duty. Of the same order is the AAP government’s decision to make an exception to the rules governing ex-gratia payment to announce a payment of Rs 1 crore to the family of Subedar Ram Krishen Grewal, who committed suicide during the protests of over One Rank One Pension in Delhi.