Part two of analysis of the status of the Chief Minister of the Union Territory of Delhi
From the brief account of the Constitutional and legal provisions given in Part I of the article, it is clear that (a) unlike State legislatures, Delhi Assembly has limited powers and even those limited powers can be overridden by the Parliament; (b) Delhi has not been given the cabinet form of government; and (c) the LG is not a just formal or constitutional head of the UT. There are several players in the field: the Central Government (acting in the name of the President), the Parliament, the administrator called LG and the CoM headed by the CM.
In such a scenario, unless all the players act with restraint and maturity, the chances of clash are too many. We have been observing the clashes ever since Arvind Kejriwal took over as CM. Those who drafted the NCTDA and the Transaction of Business Rules must have anticipated such clashes and that is why they made provisions for the resolution of disputes.
However, written provisions alone cannot ensure smooth functioning of political institutions. In fact, no parliamentary system of government can function without self-restraint and healthy conventions. In every parliamentary system of government there are several sources of conflicts: the head of the State in whose name all decisions are taken is not the head of the government; the government faces precarious position if it has thin majority in the lower house and/or the opposition parties have majority in the Upper House; the opposition parties can effectively disrupt the functioning of the Parliament and prevent the government from functioning. All the eventualities cannot be foreseen and accounted for in the Constitution or in law. It is for these reasons that healthy conventions are needed. In 1935, when the Government of India Bill (which became Government of India Act, 1935 under which popular governments were formed in the provinces of British India) was under discussion in the House of Commons, an MP pointed out that there were several infirmities which could create complications in future. In reply, the then British Prime Minister Attlee stated that for every infirmity in the Bill, he could cite ten infirmities in the unwritten constitution of Britain. He said that the smooth functioning of the constitutional system depended not just on the written words but on how the people made it work.
In a memorable speech on November 26, 1949, the last day of the Constituent Assembly, Rajendra Prasad, President of the Assembly, had stated: “We have prepared a democratic Constitution. But successful working of democratic institutions requires in those who have to work them willingness to respect the viewpoints of others, capacity for compromise and accommodation. Many things which cannot be written in a Constitution are done by conventions. Let me hope that we shall show those capacities and develop those conventions.”
Mature and responsible leaders not only follow healthy conventions, they leave behind legacy of healthier conventions. The parliamentary system of government successfully evolved in England mainly on the strength of healthy conventions initiated by mature and well-meaning leaders. The problem with the leaders of the Aam Aadami Party (AAP) in general and Arvind Kejriwal in particular is that they lack maturity to appreciate such finer points. Worse, they have neither knowledge of nor respect for the Constitution and law. They have no inclination to improve their knowledge either. To expect such persons to respect healthy conventions is a far cry. At times, they behave like anarchists. They keep on making unconstitutional demands and indulging in unconstitutional activities. Perhaps, Kejriwal thinks that the unprecedented mandate given by the people places him beyond the constitutional and legal constraints. Nothing else can explain Kejriwal’s demand for transfer of control over Delhi police to the UT government which is barred by the Constitution, introduction of bills including money bills like Jan Lokpal Bill without prior permission of the LG, appointment of 21 parliamentary secretaries and many other decisions. The LG has appointed a committee to scrutinise over 400 files for “infirmities and irregularities”. The LG fears that these files contain decisions of the UT government in violation of the Constitution and the law.
What we have been witnessing is not so much a clash between a CM and a LG. It is between Arvind Kejriwal and the PM and the LG, the administrator of Delhi UT. The root cause is Kejriwal’s temperament and perception. Delhi has seen several CMs since 1991 but no one complained of lack of power to manage the affairs of the city. As the former Delhi CM, Sheila Dixit, has rightly pointed out that during 15 years of her Chief Ministership she never felt any constraint in doing the job assigned to her by the Constitution and the law. Out of those 15 years, there was a BJP-led government at the Centre for five and half years.
But Kejriwal is different from other politicians. His political party AAP is different from other political parties. He would not be satisfied with anything less than nothing less than what is printed on the white cap of the AAP designed by him: ‘complete independence’ (Mujhe chahiye purn swaraj).
In fact, despite all the limitations imposed by the Constitution and the law, the Delhi government has enough scope for work, if one wants to work. A lot of work can be done to improve education, employment, health, power, road, water management, flood control, social welfare, women and child development, tourism, art & culture, environment, etc.
His temperament is such that even if he is given all the powers of a CM, he will cry that he is unable to function effectively because all important decision-making powers and sources of revenue are with the Central government. If he becomes Prime Minister of India, he will start blaming State governments for not working to his satisfaction despite vast powers given in the State List. He might say that he was unable to improve the lot of the common people because almost all the welfare measures could be implemented only by State governments. Imagine the scenario if we have a couple of more Kejriwal’s in State governments! There would be a real ‘governance crisis’.
It is misfortune of Delhi that the man in whom the people reposed so much faith and whom they gave a mandate not given to any PM or CM in the country, is wasting his time and energy on irrelevant issues and betraying the people. He was given golden opportunity to grow into a national leader of stature but he preferred to remain an immature and irresponsible local politician. I must admire him for the courage with which he is facing all the problems he has created for himself and for the Constitutional system.
Kejriwal is unlikely to read this article. If, by any chance, he reads it he will have only hatred for me. Luckily for me, his reaction will not be known to the public or even to me because I am not a well-known person.
I would like to give two suggestions to the Government of India:
(1) Never agree to make Delhi a full-fledged State. A CM like Kejriwal will be a bigger headache when Delhi is a full-fledged State.
(2) The Chief Minister of the Union Territory of Delhi should be re-designated Lt Chief Minister. If there can be a Lt Governor, why not a Lt. Chief Minister? That one amendment will put Arvind Kejriwal in his right place.
Please read Part I also: A Chief Minister who thinks he is above the Constitution.