India's Parliament passes bill to give Modi government more power in Delhi

The opposition Aam Aadmi Party that rules Delhi has fought for complete control over the Indian capital region

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Gujarat. AP
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The upper house of the Indian Parliament on Monday passed a bill giving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government greater control over the Delhi administration.

The contentious bill, which seeks to transfer control over bureaucrats in the capital region to the central government from the local government, received 131 votes in favour and 101 against from members of the Rajya Sabha.

Delhi, which contains the capital New Delhi, is located in the National Capital Territory that has been governed by the opposition Aam Aadmi Party since 2015.

The local government controls services such as electricity, education and public works, while the central government, led by Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party since 2014, controls law enforcement and land management.

The AAP, led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, has fought for complete control over the capital region including law and order, which are currently under the federal government.

Last week the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, overriding a Supreme Court ruling that had upheld the powers of the local government.

A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjay Chandrachud had in May ruled that the Delhi government should have control over bureaucrats in the administration of services, except in areas of public order, police and land.

With the bill passed in both houses of Parliament, it will become effective after being signed into law by the President.

The federal Home Minister Amit Shah said the new law, which replaces a government ordnance, would provide “effective and corruption-free governance” in the national capital.

“We have not brought the bill to usurp power. This is to stop the encroachment of the Delhi government on the Centre's powers,” Mr Shah said.

But Mr Kejriwal called it a “black day" for India and said that the "law will not let the elected government of Delhi work".

“The law passed today stipulates that every policy for Delhi government officials shall be determined by the central government,” Mr Kejriwal said in a video message.

“They don’t respect the Supreme Court. They have the arrogance to believe they can reverse an SC order.”

Updated: August 08, 2023, 11:26 AM