Mamata terms Central Bill to give more power to L-G 'surgical strike'; extends support to Delhi CM

NEW DELHI: Terming a Bill brought by the Centre to give overarching powers to Lieutenant Governor a “surgical strike” on India’s federal structure, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal extending her support in opposing it.

In her letter to Kejriwal on Wednesday, Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief, said she will write to all non-BJP chief ministers and political parties opposing the saffron party to seek their support for him over the issue.

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on Monday.

According to the Bill, the “government” in the city would mean the “Lieutenant Governor” in the context of any law made by the legislative assembly.

The Bill also makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the opinion of the L-G before any executive action.

Banerjee said she was in full solidarity with Kejriwal and his principled opposition to the Centre’s “devious, anti-democratic and anti-Constitution move to disempower the Delhi Government and reduce the status of Delhi’s chief minister to a subordinate to the Lieutenant Governor”.

“I strongly believe that the time has come for a united and effective fight against the BJP’s attacks on democracy and the Constitution, especially with regard to its plans to dilute the powers of state governments and downgrade them to mere municipalities.

“The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which the BJP government at the Centre has introduced in the Lok Sabha, is a surgical strike on the federal structure of the Indian Republic as enshrined in the Constitution,” Banerjee said.

She added that but for her commitments in the ongoing campaign for the Assembly elections in Bengal, she would have personally come to Delhi to express her support and solidarity with Kejriwal.

“I wish you success in your struggle. Your struggle is my struggle,” she said.

Banerjee alleged that the Bill makes a “mockery” of the letter and spirit of democracy by disempowering the Delhi government, which is elected by the people of the national capital.

She also pointed out that the Bill was in violation of the verdict by a five-judge Supreme Court bench in 2018, which “upheld the pre-eminence of Delhi’s elected government in all matters other than police, public order and land”.

“I am not at all surprised by the BJP’s move to strip away the legitimate powers of the Delhi Government and make the chief minister subservient to the Lieutenant Governor, who is an appointee of the Centre.

“It is evident to all that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have not been able to stomach the humiliating defeat the BJP suffered at the hands of the Aam Admi Party in both 2014 and 2019 assembly elections.

They want to govern Delhi by proxy, which is the real purpose of the proposed amendments to the GNCTD Act,” she said.

The TMC chief also said that what the saffron party was trying to do in Delhi has been done in states that are governed by non-BJP parties.

“In many states, including in West Bengal, governors have been functioning like BJP’s office bearers and not as neutral Constitutional authorities,” Banerjee alleged.