Prof. Kamal Chenoy
Arvind Kejriwal yesterday took on the combined might of the BJP and the Congress. Spirited and fearless he answered the quasi-legal arguments of the LG which did not recognise his right to table the Jan Lokpal Bill without the clearance of the Union Home Ministry. This once again raises the moot question if the Delhi Government is actually part of a federation. Authoritative interpretations by former Attorney General and legal luminary Soli Sorabjee and legendary civil servant Arun Bhatia who pointed out that the Centre had no jurisdiction to countermand the ruling government in moving a non finance Bill, and it was clearly ultra vires the Constitution.
As expected, the BJP and it’s B team the Congress successfully opposed the introduction of the Bill that the Delhi CM had promised. In a short speech Kejriwal politely questioned the behaviour of the opposition members pointing out that as a newcomer to the Assembly he expected to learn from their accumulated wisdom. Instead the opposition on 13 February created mayhem in the Assembly breaking mikes and tearing up papers.
Of course the pandemonium in the Lok Sabha was atrocious and a disgrace to Indian democracy. But the proceedings of the Delhi Assembly and the role of the Union Government was equally an assault on the Constitution. Arvind Kejriwal had already realised that his stance and legal action against Mukesh Ambani of Reliance would lead to a unity between the Congress and the BJP against the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Curiously, though certainly not coincidently, there was no comparison of the Jan Lokpal Bill with the Union government’s earlier Lokpal Bill. What mattered was not the content of the Bill but the pressure by the Reliance Group. The FIR filed by AAP which included a former cabinet secretary, a former chief of naval staff, and a former expenditure secretary, coupled with the Delhi CM’s sharp criticism of Reliance raising the gas prices inordinately in order to rake in super profits while the supine Union Government tailed big business and especially Reliance as usual, made the unequal battle an inevitability.
However the defence of democracy rests on democratic and pluralist propagation and promotion of Constitutional rights. Article 39 (c ) categorically states that the concentration of economic power “should not act to the common detriment”. This Directive Principle like others is binding when it is read along with Fundamental Rights. When this point was raised in the media during the debate on Constitutional questions like the power of the Union to intervene in the legislative process of a duly constituted Assembly, as blatantly against the federal principle, which has persistently become weaker over time, this was ignored. But the concentration of economic power is the outcome of the acts of elected national and local leaders.
A number of Pandits yesterday claimed, with all the authority at their command, that Kejriwal’s resignation was running away or as some put it “bailing out.” Who was bailing out? Certainly not Kejriwal. He pressed for the adoption of the Jan Lokpal Bill, and if successful would have gone on to move the Swaraj Bill. Apart from the concessions given to the poor and lower middle class on water and electricity charges, Kejriwal’s empirically based critique on the extraordinary increase in gas prices by Reliance as the Union Government benignly watched, was an unparalleled attack on profiteering.
Reliance is known to use its influence with governments and policy makers to further its corporate interests. These corporate interests include the use of its financial muscle and media assets to swing public opinion in its favour. When Kejriwal along with eminent citizens filed an FIR against Mukesh Ambani he was frontally attacking the most powerful corporate entity in India.
So it is increasingly coming out openly to be a contest to the finish between David and Goliath. But the Ambanis should remember that in the contest of right against wrong, David against Goliath, David won.
(Kamal Chenoy is a Professor at SIS, JNU. This article is reproduced from his facebook post.)