At Opposition meet in Patna, AAP, Congress engage in war of words over Delhi Ordinance

It will be difficult to be part of Opposition meetings until Congress agrees to oppose Ordinance in the Rajya Sabha, says AAP, skips joint press conference; Congress refuses to accede to demand

Updated - June 24, 2023 12:23 am IST

Published - June 23, 2023 05:50 pm IST - New Delhi 

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal arrives to attend the Opposition parties’ meeting, in Patna, on June 23, 2023.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal arrives to attend the Opposition parties’ meeting, in Patna, on June 23, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

In a matter of couple of hours, a meeting of Opposition parties in Patna that began on a convivial note was reduced to a war of words between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), according to people who were part of the meeting.

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal insisted that the Congress make its stand on an Ordinance passed by the Centre public after the meeting. The Congress refused to accede to Mr. Kejriwal’s demand. Instead, Mr. Kejriwal found himself isolated with no Opposition party leader backing him.

After the meeting, the AAP said it would be “difficult” to be part of such meetings in future in which the Congress was a part, until the Congress agreed that all its members in the Rajya Sabha would oppose the Union government’s Ordinance.

“Many parties urged the Congress to publicly denounce the black Ordinance. However, the Congress refused to do so. Until the Congress publicly denounces the black Ordinance and declares that all 31 of its RS MPs will oppose the Ordinance in the Rajya Sabha, it will be difficult for AAP to participate in future meetings of like-minded parties where the Congress is a participant,” the AAP said in a statement.

Though the AAP took part in the meeting in Patna, it skipped a joint press conference by leaders of the Opposition parties.

On May 19, the Centre issued the Ordinance that seeks to amend the Government of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi Act, 1991 and effectively negates the May 11 Supreme Court judgment that gave the AAP government the power to make laws and wield control over bureaucrats deputed to the Delhi government, except for public order, police, and land.

Since then, Mr. Kejriwal has met different Opposition leaders and most of them have extended support to defeat in the Rajya Sabha the Bill that would replace the Ordinance.

Demands statement

The argument began on Friday when Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge started to speak. Mr. Kejriwal interjected, demanding that the Congress issue a statement right after the meeting declaring support for the AAP’s campaign, a Congress leader said.

Mr. Kharge refused to accede to the demand. “Affronted by Congress president’s outright refusal, Mr. Kejriwal started complaining about the Congress Delhi unit’s personal attacks against him. He accused Mr. Kharge and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of ignoring his many requests seeking an appointment,” the leader said.

The Opposition, Mr. Kejriwal said, cannot work like this, if they aren’t even ready to speak. To which Mr. Kharge, according to the sources, retorted that the AAP spokespersons have been relentless in alleging that the Congress was working in cahoots with the BJP. Such allegations, he said, did not create a conducive atmosphere to work together.

As the argument between the two stretched, Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sought to play the peacemaker. “I would suggest Arvind [Kejriwal] and Rahul [Gandhi] should have a cup tea in Delhi at the earliest and talk about the issue on a one-on-one basis,” she said, as per leaders who attended the meeting. “In the meeting, the Congress president read out several instances of AAP’s provocative statements against Congress. He also mentioned yesterday’s statement which vitiated the environment for this meeting. K.C. Venugopal also reacted, saying that one cannot put a gun to Congress’ head and demand negotiations,” a Congress source said.

The Congress president noted that AAP regularly attended meetings of Opposition parties, where common and agreeable strategies were worked out. Nothing necessitates a different mechanism for the Ordinance and put it as a pre-condition for alliance to fight against BJP government, he said.

Once the tempers cooled down, Mr. Kharge assured Mr. Kejriwal that Congress would not support any anti-Constitutional legislation. He pointed out that the issue was primarily that of parliamentary strategy and that his party would decide after a meeting of its Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members

Earlier, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti reminded Mr. Kejriwal on the AAP’s stand of supporting the Central government’s decision to abrogate the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, sources said.

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