The Congress party's sudden submissiveness to the Aam Admi Party has thrown up a fresh challenge for Arvind Kejriwal – how to continue refusing to form the government in Delhi.
Even as the battle of wits between AAP and the Congress has taken a new twist with the latter biting a humiliation bullet and putting on a hitherto unseen humble face by agreeing all 18 points that Kejriwal had raised, a parallel Executive process has been put in process to impose President's rule in the city.
Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has sent a report to the Home Ministry stating the inability and disinclination of any party to form the government. He thereby asked for imposition of President's rule and keeping the newly elected assembly under suspended animation till any of the parties concerned come forward to form the government.
The Lt Governor’s move will only add to the pressure on Kejriwal to take a clear cut decision on whether to form the government at the earliest. Unlike the hurry shown in so many previous instances, the centre in this case is treading a far more cautious and patient path. "We have got the LG's report. He has listed a few options. The home ministry has initiated the process of consultations with legal experts," Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.
The Congress would ideally like to give the situation a couple of days, but there is a debatable constitutional issue that may force them to act faster.
The term of the outgoing Delhi assembly expires today (17 December), and after her defeat in assembly elections, Sheila Dikshit is currently the caretaker chief minister heading a lame duck government.
If no popular government is formed today, the Union Cabinet will have to recommend President Rule for governance of the city. There is however, another view in the home ministry that it need not necessarily take a call on President's rule by Tuesday night, when the term of the incumbent assembly is due to expire, as the new assembly had been constituted and notified on 10 December. Sheila had a humiliating loss, but technically there is a possibility of her continuing as a caretaker chief minister. However this that would be creating a new precedent and is an unlikely possibility.
There was no reference to the subject in the union Cabinet meeting on Monday. The Congress led union Government would first like to see how Kejriwal reacts to Congress general secretary and Delhi leader Shakeel Ahmed’s letter before convening a meeting of Union Cabinet to take a call on the Lt Governor’s recommendations for President Rule.
It’s entirely up to Kejriwal and his team to decide whether they are satisfied with the Congress’s response and take up this challenge to lead the government.
The contents of Kejriwal’s letter to Sonia and his spoken words on the subject had been rather harsh and strong, which even smacked of arrogance, but in its hour of defeat, the Congress seems to have taken few valuable new lessons of humility and make a public display of it by coming in open support of all the 18 points dictated by the AAP leader, including an investigation into Dikshit's 15 year rule, sending errant Congress leaders to jail and reversing Congress’s decision of allowing FDI in retail in the city. Kejriwal had dispatched a similar letter to BJP president Rajnath Singh, but the BJP has so far chosen to ignore it.
Delhi BJP leaders feel that the Congress’s uncharacteristic humbleness in the matter is influenced entirely by a short sighted idea of stopping Narendra Modi’s onward march.
In his response to Kejriwal, Congress Committee general secretary, Shakeel Ahmed has clarified that his party had not used the word “unconditional” in its letter to the Lieutenant Governor. A copy of that support letter has also been attached to stress that the Congress had only offered “outside support” to the AAP, meaning that it would not be participating in its government or ministries.
The Congress made brave arguments to AAP’s straight questioning on why it was offering support without their asking for it. The party says that they were only motivated by their desire to see a government formed in Delhi so that there they could avoid the additional financial of an election on the people. Since the Congress could not support the BJP, it supported AAP.
Of the 18 points or questions raised by Kejriwal in his letter to Sonia Gandhi, the Congress general secretary said barring points number 2 and 4 all the remaining 16 were administrative in nature where the sanction of the legislature was not required, and so it didn’t need Congress’s numerical support in the House to implement any of these.
On the remaining two points, one related to Lokpal and other on full statehood, the Congress said in its response that so far as Lokpal was concerned, the Bill could be passed in Parliament any day before the session closes on 20 December, and that the Congress would support any amendment in the existing Lokayukta Act for the city. The Congress has always been committed to the full statehood in the city, the Delhi Congress manifesto has listed that for the last two elections.
Politics is the art of possible, they say. And the ball is firmly in Kejriwal's court - how will he choose to negotiate the course?