Grant of more powers to LG triggers fear of tussle with AAP govt during COVID

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New Delhi, Apr 28 (PTI) The Lt Governor of Delhi has been given more powers through a notification of GNCTD (Amendment) Act triggering fears of a tussle and run-ins with the ruling AAP dispensation during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling AAP questioned the timing of the notification in the middle of another COVID wave, claiming it will lead to 'chaos' and 'adversely' affect management of the pandemic.

'The Centre and the Delhi government are working together to tackle COVID but such a notification will bring a lot of confusion. When the work is going on at war footing the last thing people expect is chaos and confusion among the administrations,' said the party.

The Union Home Ministry's notification giving effect to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 came on Tuesday night. It makes clear that Delhi's elected government will now have to seek the opinion of the L-G before any executive decision.

'This means the elected dispensation in Delhi has been rendered ineffectual in day to day business. The move that comes amid a raging pandemic may cause problems related to the execution of administrative works about many important issues facing the city,' claimed a source.

At the passage of the GNCTD (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha on March 24, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said his government will continue to struggle to restore power back to the people while doing the good work it had undertaken.

However, the Kejriwal government and the AAP maintained silence over the MHA notification and no reaction was available from their side on Wednesday.

In March, reacting to enactment of GNCTD(Amendment) Act, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said that the ruling dispensation was taking legal opinion to decide its future course of action.

Delhi LG Anil Baijal, in his empowered role under the act, will chair a weekly COVID review meeting scheduled on Thursday. The chief minister and his Cabinet ministers had been attending these meetings in the past, officials said.

The AAP led by Kejriwal had a confrontation with the office of LG immediately after coming to power in Delhi in 2015 had immediately after coming to power in Delhi in 2015. The then LG Najeeb Jung and Kejriwal government had on more than one occasion clashed over policy issues and their respective powers.

The tussle continued even after Jung was replaced by Anil Baijal. As recently as July last year, the two sides differed on jurisdictions, with Baijal rejecting Kejriwal government's panel of public prosecutors for Delhi riots cases.

There was a marked improvement in the situation after the Supreme Court intervened in July 2018 and ordered that the LG was bound by aid and advice of the elected government in Delhi in all matters barring public order police and land.

However, the calm which prevailed for nearly three years is now under threat with the notification establishing the LG's supremacy over the ruling dispensation as it stipulates that his opinion will be obtained before any executive action by the Cabinet or its ministers.

Sources said the timing of the notification was particularly noteworthy as the Delhi government had faced the flak in the high court over the handling of the pandemic.

The AAP in a statement said the Centre could have waited instead of issuing the notification in the middle of another wave.

'We really hoped that the central government should have waited at least till the end of the second wave. Delhi is amidst the COVID-19 crisis and by notifying this right in the middle of the second wave, it can lead to a lot of chaos,' said the AAP statement.| This could 'definitely adversely affect' COVID management in the national capital, said the party.

Under the leadership of Kejriwal, the AAP government is working on every possible aspect to tackle the second wave, it said.

The sources said that with GNCTD Act in force there is also a likelihood of delay in important decisions related to government's policies and programmes due to necessity of LG's approval. PTI VIT AAR AAR