Stormy start to budget session; 3 BJP MLAs marshalled out

The budget session of the Delhi Assembly began on a stormy note on Friday as Bharatiya Janata Party and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs raised slogans against each other just as Lieutenant-Governor V.K. Saxena began his speech in the House.

While the Opposition MLAs demanded Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation, the ruling party members raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The L-G could begin his address only after Speaker Ram Niwas Goel ordered the removal of three BJP MLAs. While Jitendra Mahajan, Anil Bajpai and O.P. Sharma of the BJP were marshalled out of the House, the rest of the BJP legislators, led by Leader of the Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, staged a walkout.

L-G lists out achievements

The Lieutenant-Governor, in his maiden address in Delhi Assembly, praised the government for maintaining robust economic fundamentals despite the pandemic and listed out its various achievements. Mr. Saxena said, “In spite of various constraints, my government has taken up a number of initiatives on various fronts and laid a strong edifice on which it can help build a developed and prosperous Delhi.”

Improvements in the field of education and the AAP government flagship schemes and initiatives featured prominently in the L-G’s address.

The L-G informed the House that Delhi’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) had seen a growth of 50% from ₹6,16,085 crore in 2016-17 to ₹9,23,967 crore during 2021-22.

On the infrastructure front, the L-G said that 1.35 lakh CCTV cameras had been installed in the city. He also mentioned the construction of underpasses and flyovers, including the extension of the Ashram flyover.

“Delhi has created robust health infrastructure with 38 multispeciality hospitals, 174 allopathic dispensaries, 522 Aam Aadmi mohalla clinics, etc,” he said.

While talking about the government’s power subsidy programme, the L-G said that Delhi electricity tariff is lowest among neighbouring States and that the outages have been reduced to 0.02 per cent.

“Efforts of the government have been significantly instrumental towards a positive trend in air pollution levels. ‘Severe’ air quality dropped from 24 days in 2021 to six days in 2022,” he said.

 Mr. Saxena also spoke about the government’s work in other sectors such as tourism, social welfare, agriculture and tourism.

Later in the day, Delhi Cabinet Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj put forward a resolution terming the disruption by BJP legislators as contempt of the House, which was passed unanimously and sent to the Ethics Committee.

A poetic dig at AAP

On the ongoing war of words between the L-G and the AAP government, Mr. Saxena, speaking to reporters after his

address, said “boundaries and dignity of speech had been destroyed in the recent past”. However, before leaving the premises along with the CM and the Speaker, he said, “A tree has said a very beautiful line for the wind — It makes my leaves fall every day, but still my relations do not break with it. This is our government, how can relations break?”

The Chief Minister, when asked about the L-G’s “dignity of speech” remark, said, “These are very small things. If a government has been elected by two crore people, it should be allowed to work.”

After the House was adjourned, the CM told reporters that his government had managed to work for people despite “many efforts to create hurdles in its way”.

Mr. Kejriwal also said, “Today, L-G saheb told [in the House] that ever since the AAP government has been formed, Delhi is prospering in every field. He also said the government had done well despite many hurdles.”

Calling the CM opportunistic, Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said, “Kejriwal can’t mislead the people who very well know that the L-G is constitutionally bound to read the text provided by Delhi government while inaugurating the budget session of the Assembly.

 “This is in no way a ratification or a positive analysis of the government’s performance by the L-G,” he added.

‘Unlawful removal’

 Terming the Speaker’s action to marshal out the MLAs as “dictatorial, the BJP later staged a protest outside the House and raised slogans.

According to Mr. Bidhuri, it was not just “dictatorial but a clear violation of the rules” as it is L-G who presides over the House during his address. “As per Rule-14, during that time the right to expel a member from the House or to take any action is not with the Speaker but with the Lieutenant-Governor only,” he said.

 The BJP MLAs also claimed that AAP members started the confrontation.

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