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Dark clouds hover over Delhi as AAP-BJP war set to intensify

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 25 June 2016, 21:33 IST

The incessant stand-off between the Delhi government and the Union government has once again reached a critical juncture.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's tweet on a referendum for statehood, inspired by the Brexit referendum, was just one indicator. A major political storm is brewing in Delhi on at least four different fronts, and both the BJP and AAP are gearing up for a major showdown.

Kejriwal's referendum tweet did not come out of the blue.

Many may have forgotten that the Delhi government put up on its website a draft Bill seeking full statehood for the capital over a month ago. The government has urged Delhiites to review and suggest amendments to the Bill, the deadline for which is the end of June.

The buzz is that the AAP government is contemplating calling for a vote on the lines of a referendum early in July.

Centre returns Bills

Media reports have claimed that the Union Home Ministry has decided to return all Bills 'moved and passed by the state Assembly without prior sanction of the Centre/Lieutanant-Governor'.

Neither the ministry nor the Delhi L-G's office has sent out any official communication on the issue so far, but Kejriwal and several other leaders of the party have already reacted strongly.

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Kejriwal sent out multiple tweets, trying to portray that this rejection of the state government's Bills was the reason why Delhi Assembly needed more power.

These Bills, reportedly 14 in number, were passed and sent to the Centre over a period of a year, and include many key legislations like:

  • The Jan Lokpal Bill

  • The Delhi (Right to Citizen to Time-bound Delivery of Services) Amendment Bill

  • The Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill 2015

  • The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill 2015

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015

  • The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015

  • Minimum Wages (Delhi) Amendment Bill 2015

  • The Code of Criminal Procedure (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015.

Five other Bills relate to amendments for hiking salaries of ministers, MLAs, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Whip.

NDMC lawyer's murder

Heated politics has played out between the two parties over the recent murder of MM Khan, a lawyer advising the New Delhi Municipal Corporation.

The 57-year-old was shot dead by two unidentified men on 17 May in Jamia Nagar. It is alleged that he was killed at the behest of the owners of a prominent hotel in Connaught Place, The Connaught Hotel, after he refused to accept a bribe from them for settling a Rs 140-crore dispute in their favour.

AAP has alleged that two BJP leaders, NDMC vice-chairman Karan Singh Tanwar and East Delhi MP Maheish Girri, are also involved in the murder.

AAP alleged that two BJP leaders, including East Delhi MP Maheish Girri, are involved in the murder

Protesting the allegation, Girri recently sat on a hunger strike outside Kejriwal's residence, demanding the latter prove his allegations.

Top BJP leaders visited Girri in solidarity with his fast, which continued for three days and culminated with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh offering him juice. The significance of Singh's presence at the fast must not be underplayed.

It indicates that something is brewing in the BJP camp, aimed at seriously unsettling Kejriwal.

The 21 parliamentary secretaries

Twenty-one AAP MLAs are facing the threat of disqualification because of the Delhi government's decision to appoint them as parliamentary secretaries.

A complaint has been filed with the Election Commission, acting on which, the EC has asked the MLAs to explain why their appointment as parliamentary secretaries does not fall under "office of profit", and why their Assembly membership should not be cancelled.

The matter became precarious for AAP especially after President Pranab Mukherjee recently refused to give assent to a Bill passed by the Delhi government to give retrospective legislative cover to the appointments.

The matter is being heard by the EC, and if it rules that the MLAs should be disqualified, fresh elections will have to be held on these 21 seats.

The water tanker scam

This is among the BJP's plans over which some of its leaders are rubbing their hands in glee. The Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of the Delhi Police has registered an FIR in the Rs 400-crore water tanker scam, and has said that none other than Kejriwal himself could be questioned in connection with the case.

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The allegation is that the Delhi Jal Board, under the chairmanship of former Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit, arbitrarily awarded tenders for water tankers at rates higher than prescribed.

BJP's allegation against the AAP government is that it has not acted against Dikshit, in spite of its own fact-finding committee recommending a probe, thereby conniving with her.

BJP has also alleged that AAP government's failure to cancel those contracts amounts to perpetuation of the scam.

The Union government, through the L-G, had taken control of the ACB away from the Delhi government in July 2015.

The ACB now reports to the Union Home Ministry and there is nothing that can stop the Centre from using it to embarrass Kejriwal, if it wants to.

Anti-Corruption Branch reports to the Home Ministry, and the Centre can use it to embarrass Kejriwal

Sources in the BJP have informed Catch that there is a view among a section of senior party leaders that ACB should go full-throttle, prepare the ground, arrest Kejriwal and make him spend time in custody.

These leaders believe this will rattle Kejriwal and also discredit him in the eyes of the public, thereby strengthening the BJP in Delhi as well as in Punjab. However, the BJP is yet to take the final decision on this.

It is quite possible that Kejriwal has got wind of these plans and is therefore planning to turn more combative to thwart them.

Whipping up public sentiment through the referendum call could also be a strategy to prepare a shield around himself.

By all accounts, things between AAP and BJP are likely to get very ugly soon.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

More in Catch

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal fighting 'fight of lies', says BJP MP Maheish Girri

What next Kejriwal? AAP mulls strategy as 21 MLAs disqualified

Kejriwal liable for appointing AAP MLAs as Parliamentary secretaries, says Congress


First published: 25 June 2016, 21:33 IST
 
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.

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