Interview: Sanjay Singh, Aam Aadmi Party

Sanjay Singh: ‘A cruel joke on the people of Delhi’

Print edition : April 23, 2021

Sanjay Singh, AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member. Photo: Vijay Verma/PTI

Interview with Sanjay Singh, Rajya Sabha member, Aam Aadmi Party.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has accused the Narendra Modi government of power grab in Delhi. In an interview with Frontline, its leader Sanjay Singh, who is also a Rajya Sabha member, asserted that the BJP was not only desperate following its successive electoral reverses in Delhi but also felt threatened by Arvind Kejriwal’s development model and AAP’s soaring popularity. Excerpts:

The Aam Aadmi Party has alleged that the Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, is legally untenable. Why do you think so?

The amendments violate the ruling of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India, and it is also violative of the spirit of the Constitution of India that accords primacy to decentralisation of power and upholds a federal structure elected by the people. When Delhi was accorded a Legislative Assembly by the 69th Amendment, Clause VI in Article 239AA was introduced to enable a Council of Ministers who were accountable to people. By vesting all executive power in the Lieutenant Governor, the government has clearly eroded the concept of accountability of the executive. Second, any amendment that alters a constitutional provision ought to be ratified by a two-thirds majority, which is not the case here. They were obliged to introduce a separate Bill for such an amendment in our opinion.

This is an alarming development as what they have done to Delhi today might be replicated elsewhere. This is an assault on the father of the Indian Constitution B.R. Ambedkar’s concept of democracy which laid emphasis on accountability of the government to its electorate. The basic idea of our democracy is threatened.

How was the response of the opposition parties to these developments?

Almost all parties supported us in offering resistance to the government’s encroachment on federal powers. Some parties spoke against the government in Parliament and boycotted voting whereas some others opposed it as well as voted against the Bill. Overall, the leaders representing the opposition parties were unanimous that the government is bent on concentrating all powers and shrinking the space for the opposition. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manoeuvres in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have laid bare its totalitarian agenda. The BJP has been repeatedly using two tools to destabilise governments led by opposition parties and usurp power. One is to engineer defections in rival parties with the help of the enormous capital it has amassed. The other option is to manipulate the constitutional provisions.

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In Delhi it was not possible for the BJP to split the ruling party or buy MLAs, so they explored the second option of arbitrary constitutional rearrangement of power. They are not able to digest the fact that despite their superior cadre and money power and attempts to communally polarise the electorate, the Aam Aadmi Party swept 90 per cent of the seats. Their machinations vis-a-vis Delhi betray their desperation to secure monopolistic control of India.

How does the Centre’s move to transfer executive powers to the Lieutenant Governor reflect on the people of Delhi?

It represents a betrayal of the people of Delhi. The BJP has been an avowed advocate of full statehood for Delhi. However, their words and actions do not match. The BJP first promised full statehood to Delhi way back in their 1998 election manifesto. They repeated the same promise in 2003 and 2008 again. In the 2013 Delhi election, statehood was once again their electoral plank, and it continued to be one in the 2015 election.

The government says the Act is aimed at ensuring clarity in crucial matters of governance.

When they say this is for clarity, it is a cruel joke on the people of Delhi. The clarity could be ensured by extending statehood as well. It is a blatant power grab after repeated failure at the hustings.

How has the Arvind Kejriwal government’s experiences been with Lieutenant Governors Najeeb Jung and now Anil Baijal?

That is for everyone to see. Even in a sensitive issue related to public health, such as mohalla clinics, the Chief Minister and all his Cabinet colleagues had to virtually do a sit-in at the reception of the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

Also read: How the new law usurps Delhi's powers

What do you think is the source of this conflict?

The BJP is very insecure of the AAP’s development model and the tremendous reception this model has attracted everywhere in the country. Our initiatives on affordable health care, education, free electricity and water supply are being seen as an innovative form of governance. Narendra Modi is afraid of our progress as Delhi’s credible achievements are a contrast to his hollow promises and his non-existent Gujarat model. The BJP is also alarmed by our spectacular rise in Punjab, with some surveys predicting the AAP’s victory in the next election. The BJP is also alarmed by the inroads we are making in Uttar Pradesh with kisan mahapanchayats. They want to finish our development model.

Will you take the fight against this amendment to the Supreme Court? Are you hopeful of getting relief in the Supreme Court?

The party is exploring that option. As and when we make a decision in that regard, we will talk about it. What we are asking for is not contrary to the ruling of the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench. We are hopeful it will respect its own ruling.

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