NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha witnessed a massive uproar on Wednesday as the opposition, led by the Congress and the AAP, alleged that the Modi government was trying to bypass the elected Delhi Assembly by bringing an "unconstitutional" bill to empower the Lt Governor and was practising "coercive federalism".
Several opposition members trooped into the Well and shouted anti-government slogans forcing two back-to-back adjournments of 10 minutes each, while the BJD, YSRCP and the SP members walked out in protest against the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Defending the bill, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy asserted that the amendments have been brought to address certain ambiguities in the law and rejected allegations that it was an attempt to usurp powers of the elected government.
Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi tore into the GNCTD (Amendment) Bill , dubbing it is "most unconstitutional bill" which the House has ever received and went on to say that "even the Delhi BJP should join us in opposing this".
"Make no mistake friends this is not about AAP, or Congress or BJP. It's about the fundamentals of federalism," he said, and alleged the current regime at Centre was engaged into "coercive federalism".
The Trinamool Congress and the Shive Sena also attacked the central government over the bill, and several opposition members demanded that it be sent to the Select Committee for greater scrutiny, The bill, that was already been passed by Lok Sabha, was later approved by Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
According to the bill, the "government" in Delhi means the "Lieutenant Governor" and it also makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the opinion of the L-G before any executive action.
Soon after Rajya Sabha returned the Finance Bill, 2021 this evening, the House took up the proposed legislation on Delhi.
However, Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge opposed the amendments, alleging they have been brought to put up a proxy government or to rule Delhi state through the "back door".
"If you make LG the government (of Delhi state) what is the need for elections. And also there is no need then for representatives to chose chief minister. This (bill) is against the Constitution," he said.
Kharge, a former Union Minister, said if the present government actually wants to make amendments it should bring a Constitutional amendment and not through an ordinary bill.
Sanjay Singh, MP of Aam Admi Party (AAP) which is in power in Delhi, took a jibe at the BJP saying the bill has been brought as it lost assembly elections twice.
"I am seeking justice for two crore citizens of Delhi and for 130 crore Indians. I am standing here to save the Constitution of India," he said.
A notice moved by Singh regarding the bill was not approved by the Chair.
As opposition members were objecting to the bill, Union Minister Kishan Reddy asserted that the amendments were not new in nature, but have been brought to address certain ambiguities related to the functioning of the NCT government.
The minister said he was ready to respond to all the concerns being raised.
BJP MP Bhupinder Yadav too defended the proposed legislation.
Meanwhile, several opposition members started raising anti-government slogans and trooped in the Well of the House.
Deputy Chairman Harivansh tried to calm the members and called Singhvi to put forth his views on the bill.
As the protesting members reached the well and House marshals arrived, Kharge warned that what happened in the Bihar assembly on Tuesday should not be repeated.
Kharge was referring to the chaos that erupted in the Bihar assembly when police were called inside to assist the marshals in evicting unruly opposition members protesting against the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021.
However, Singhvi insisted that the House first be brought to order.
"I cannot even hear myself," he said, as sloganeering continued.
With protesting members in no mood to relent, the Chair adjourned the House twice for 10 minutes each.
When the House re-assembled, Singhvi started his speech.
The Congress leader, who is a senior lawyer, alleged the bill reflects a fundamental intolerance of the ruling party towards other parties.
He alleged the laws were being changed through "stealth", "subterfuge" and "camouflage", and hence it is even more diabolical.
The Congress MP also took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying in 2012 he had expressed concerns on federalism.
Derek O'Brien (TMC) made a strong pitch for sending the bill to the Select Committee.
BJD's Prasanna Acharya said the Centre should have held wider consultations before bringing this bill.
"My party does not want to be a party to this bill. We are staging a peaceful walkout," he said, and lamented that the proposed legislation undermines the elected government of Delhi state.
P Wilson (DMK) termed the bill as "blot on the Constitution".
He cautioned that the bill would be stayed by courts even if it is passed by Parliament.
He too demanded that the bill be examined by a select committee.
V P Nishad (SP) and Jharna Das Baidya (CPI-M) too opposed the bill terming it unconstitutional.
In his speech, Manoj Jha (RJD) said his party was opposing the proposed law "on constitutional parameter and moral principles".
V Vijayasai Reddy (YSRCP) too walked out of the House.
Opposing the bill, AAP leader Sanjay Singh said it is against the Constitution, democracy and elected government.
"Delhi's two crore people have elected the government. We want to know for which mistake you are punishing us. Are you punishing us for improving education, health and other areas in the interest of people?" he said.
Singh said the BJP always talked about having a full-fledged government during elections in Delhi although the party has not won since 1998.
"Why don't you pass a bill that the President will run the country and not Prime Minister and Home Minister," he added.
He claimed the reason behind bringing the bill is that the Delhi government denied giving six stadiums to convert them into jails for protesting farmers when the central government had asked for it.
The bill has also been brought to withdraw the free water and electricity given in Delhi, he said, adding that Delhi citizens will not forgive the BJP.
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The tendency of the BJP to subvert democracy and hunger for absolute and unchecked power has been seen on earlier occasions too. It was seen in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra," Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged.
"If this bill is passed, citizens of Delhi will suffer. It should be sent to a select committee for wider consultations," she said.
SAD leader Naresh Gujral urged the government not to deny the citizens of Delhi their rights.
"They voted to elect people to govern them. Today you are denying them to govern. That's why my party strongly opposes it," he said.
TDP's Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar said even if the bill is introduced, it cannot override the effect of the Constitution.
"If the matter is taken to SC, it will be subject to judicial review and will not stand the legal scrutiny," he said.
NCP leader Fauzia Khan strongly opposed the bill saying "if passed today it will be called a black day in the history of constitutional democracy."
The bill should be rejected outrightly and scrapped, she said, adding that she does not understand why the Centre is getting into a conflict with union territories and states."
In Maharashtra, we have given 12 governor-nominee names for MLCs to the Governor and they have not been approved for months now as he is waiting that the government may change anytime," she alleged.