Rajya Sabha Passes Delhi Services Bill Amid Heated Debate and Opposition Protests

The Opposition motion to send the bill to a select committee sparked drama; AAP was accused of fraud, levied against MP Raghav Chadha.

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The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, widely referred to as the Delhi Services Bill, has been passed by the Rajya Sabha with 131 votes in favour and 102 against, replacing an ordinance that governed the transfer and posting of senior officers within the Delhi government. The contentious bill, aimed at curbing abuse of power and enabling corruption-free governance, as asserted by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, has been a flashpoint between the Centre and the opposition, with AAP leading the charge against it.

The Bill’s Objective

The Delhi Services Bill, defended vigorously by Amit Shah, seeks to empower the Central Government to regulate the affairs of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, including the functions and conditions of service of officers and employees. Shah insisted that the bill was in line with previous practices under the Congress regime and did not violate the Supreme Court judgement.

The Opposition’s Stance

The bill has sparked outrage among opposition parties, with AAP’s Raghav Chadha calling it a “political fraud” and a “constitutional sin.” He accused the BJP of destroying decades of efforts to make Delhi a full state, taking a swipe at Amit Shah for invoking Jawaharlal Nehru to back the bill.

Congress also vehemently opposed the bill, with member Abhishek Manu Singhvi calling it “retrogressive” and “completely unconstitutional,” accusing it of violating the principles of federalism.

The Drama Over Raghav Chadha’s Motion

The proceedings were marked by high drama when the opposition’s motion to send the bill to a select committee was taken up. Accusations of ‘farji’ फ़रज़ी practices (Fraudulent) by the AAP were brought into the House proceedings and levied against the AAP’s MP Raghav Chadha, with some members, including BJD MP Sasmit Patra and BJP MP Sudhanshu Trivedi, claiming that their names were included without consent. Shah indicated that the matter would be investigated.

Contentious Debate

During the debate, Shah took jabs at Congress for aligning with AAP and stated that Kejriwal would quit the opposition bloc INDIA once the Delhi services bill is passed. The opposition attempted to block Shah’s address multiple times, alleging the use of unparliamentary words, only to be overruled by Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar.

Shah also alleged that the AAP-led Delhi government had hurriedly transferred officers of the vigilance department because they possessed files related to a liquor scam, insinuating corruption.

The passage of the Delhi Services Bill marks a significant episode in the ongoing political struggle between the Centre and the Delhi government. By consolidating control over the transfers and postings of senior officers in Delhi, the BJP-led government has further centralised power at the expense of the AAP’s vision for the region.

Critics argue that the bill undermines the democratic autonomy of the elected government in the national capital. The fierce debates, contentious allegations, and drama surrounding the motion moved by Raghav Chadha have all contributed to the charged atmosphere.

The bill now awaits the President’s sign-off to become law, but the debates and conflicts it has engendered will likely persist in the political discourse. The Delhi Services Bill, 2023, encapsulates the ongoing tension between demands for decentralised governance and the push for a central authority, and it will undoubtedly continue to serve as a significant point of contention in Indian politics.

Centralization and Controversy: A Deepening Rift in Delhi’s Governance

The passage of the Delhi Services Bill, 2023 represents a significant milestone in the political landscape of India’s national capital, with potential impacts that extend beyond mere administrative control.

Firstly, the bill’s empowerment of the Central Government over the transfer and posting of senior officers in Delhi underscores a shift towards centralization. This could limit the Delhi government’s autonomy, potentially creating future conflicts between state and central authorities. The opposition, particularly the AAP, views this as an infringement on democratic governance and the rights of a locally elected government.

Secondly, the bill has deepened political divides. The heated debates and drama in the Rajya Sabha highlight the widening rift between the ruling BJP and opposition parties, especially AAP, which has been a strong advocate for full statehood for Delhi. This clash may further polarise political dynamics within the capital and set a precedent for future confrontations over state versus central control.

Finally, the allegations of corruption and the ‘farji’ practice linked with the bill have ignited public discourse. As the claims and counterclaims continue to unfold, public trust in the political system may be affected.

In summary, the Delhi Services Bill carries with it not just a change in the administrative protocol but also seeds of political discord, challenges to democratic decentralisation, and questions over transparency and integrity. Its true impact will unfold in how it is implemented and how the tensions it has sparked are managed in the coming months and years.