Union Cabinet approval for amending the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) Act to arm the lieutenant governor with greater powers to control the Delhi council of ministers, stokes a needless inter-governmental confrontation. In July 2018, a five judge Supreme Court bench had delineated a rational division of powers recognising Centre’s prerogative over police, public order and land, while the Delhi government didn’t need to obtain LG’s “concurrence” on every issue of day to day governance. This ruling had eased considerably the flashpoints between LG Anil Baijal and the AAP government.
With the proposed GNCTD Act amendments, that relative calm stands threatened. It reportedly requires the city government to send legislative proposals for the LG’s opinion 15 days in advance and administrative proposals seven days ahead. No elected government will stomach vesting such discretionary powers in an unelected authority. Governance could again hit a standstill; the LG’s lack of accountability to Delhi’s electorate is reason enough to proceed slowly. Ironically, better governance and reducing potential conflicts were cited as reasons for the amendments. But Delhi police’s recurring failures under Union home ministry supervision without city government oversight question such rationale.
Mixing politics with the administration of Delhi is best avoided. The national capital’s residents gave AAP a second overwhelming mandate last year. Rather than derail, BJP must closely scrutinise AAP’s work and claims on education, healthcare, cheap electricity and ration delivery. Attempting to run Delhi through the LG by retarding the elected government’s policies will produce an administrative quagmire. Delhi already suffers a multiplicity of authorities including Union home and urban development ministries, LG, an elected state government, five municipal bodies and Delhi Development Authority. The farm law protests serve caution against bulldozing the opposition, even when the law itself is perfectly justified and rational. Delhi sorely needs clean air, waste management, law enforcement and ease of doing business – not another power grab.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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