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MHA Approves Delhi Budget; Finance Minister Gahlot Terms Stalling as Unconstitutional

The nod came hours after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal shot off a letter to PM Modi urging him to not stop the budget exercise, asking if he was "upset" with the people of Delhi.
MHA Approves Delhi Budget; Finance Minister Gahlot Terms Stalling as Unconstitutional

Image Courtesy: Screen grab from [email protected]

New Delhi: A day after heated exchanges between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) dispensation and the Centre over the Delhi Budget, the Union home ministry on Tuesday approved the city government's financial document, paving the way for its tabling in the Assembly.

The approval came hours after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to not stop the Budget exercise and asked if he was "upset" with the people of Delhi.

The presentation of the Delhi government's Budget for 2023-24, which was scheduled for Tuesday, was put on hold with the Kejriwal dispensation and the Centre trading charges over allocations under various heads.

"I inform this House with sadness and heaviness that the Centre stopped our Budget yesterday. The complete Budget with documents was sent to the MHA on March 10," Delhi Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot said.

He said he learnt around 2 p.m on Monday that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has raised some queries.

"I asked the chief secretary and the finance secretary several times and finally around 6 pm, I saw the file and it was sent to the LG (lieutenant governor), after the chief minister's approval," Gahlot said in the assembly. He added that nothing can be more unconstitutional and demanded a probe into the matter.

While raising the issue of the stalling of the Budget, he rued the elected government could not even pass it with Opposition BJP legislators walking out.

Chief Minister Kejriwal in the Assembly said, "The budget had to be presented today. The Centre stopped it. We replied to MHA's query without making any changes to the budget and they have approved it now. They wanted me to bow down. It's their ego and nothing else."

The issue created an uproar in the Assembly with BJP MLA Vijender Gupta giving a notice for breach of privilege over alleged leak of Budget details, with the ruling AAP accusing him of attempting to disrupt House proceedings.

Subsequently, he was suspended from the assembly for a year till the next Budget session, after a motion moved by AAP MLA Sanjeev Jha was passed with majority.

Sources in the LG office accused Kejriwal, his ministers and the AAP of deliberately making false statements with the sole purpose of misleading the people of Delhi and the media, and distracting them from the failures of the AAP government.

"He has been saying that the Centre has blocked a 'State's' Budget. This is patently false. Delhi is a Union Territory and not a State and therefore it is fully a part and parcel of the Government of India. Moreover, the Budget has not been blocked," said a source at the LG office.

The source explained that the Constitution provides that previous consent and approval of the President of India is required before laying the Budget of Delhi in the legislative assembly and this has been going on for the past 28 years without fail.

"Fixing the date for presentation of Budget before seeking the President's approval for the Budget, in itself is wrong and shows mal-intent on part of the AAP government," the source said.

"The chief minister was aware that the LG has approved the financial statement and made certain observations since March 9, when the LG Secretariat sent the file to him. However, none of the concerns raised by LG were addressed, this way or the other," the source alleged.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal made an emotional appeal to the prime minister through a letter.

"This is the first in the last 75 years that a state's budget has been stalled. Why are you upset with Delhiites? Please don't stall Delhi's budget. With folded hands, Delhiites urge you to pass their budget," the AAP national convener wrote in his letter.

The AAP said March 21 was a "black day" as the Delhi budget was stalled by the Centre "at the 11th hour". It has never happened in the history of the country, the party said.

The BJP in Delhi slammed Kejriwal, accusing him of creating a row over the city government's budget for "cheap publicity".

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