The Union home ministry approved the Delhi Budget on Tuesday following a clarification from the Aam Aadmi Party government, paving the way for its presentation in the assembly, but a furious Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal lashed out, alleging that the Centre had stalled it for ego satisfaction.
Kejriwal said that the budget, which will now be presented on Wednesday, had been approved 'without any change' and questioned the practice of sending it to the Centre for clearance.
The Delhi Budget was scheduled to be tabled in the assembly on Tuesday, but the AAP government could not do so after the ministry of home affairs sought clarification on the allocation of funds for infrastructure and advertisements.
While the matter sparked a fresh row between the AAP government and the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday alleged that the Kejriwal dispensation sat on the clarifications sought by the ministry of home affairs for three days and then blamed the Centre for gaining 'cheap publicity'.
But speaking in the assembly, Kejriwal alleged that the Centre's objection was a departure from tradition and an attack on the Constitution.
"The Delhi government wants to work and not fight. We are tired of fighting and it serves no one. We want to work together with the prime minister, we do not want any tussle," the chief minister said.
He said the Centre had raised four queries.
"We replied to them without any other change in the budget. Now, they have given approval to it which proves that their ego was satisfied that the Delhi government bowed down," Kejriwal said.
Taking a dig at the objection of the Centre and LG office that the budget 2023-24 had higher a provision for advertisement and relatively lower for infrastructure, the AAP supremo said that 'uneducated' people were posted from top to bottom.
'They said advertisement allocation was higher than that for infrastructure. Uneducated people have been sitting from top to bottom. Which is more - Rs 20,000 crore for infrastructure or Rs 500 crore for advertisement?' said the chief minister in the assembly.
He, however, expressed satisfaction over the MHA's approval to the budget, saying 'better late than never' and asked what was the need to create an issue over it.
Kejriwal also asserted that the Lt Governor has no power 'to raise any objections, make observations or write anything on a file', as he was bound by the aid and advice of the Cabinet of the elected government.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal appealed 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 party said March 21 was a 'black day' as an elected government was 'prevented' from presenting the budget.
During the day, 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 in the LG office.
On its part, the BJP accused the chief minister of creating a row over the city government's budget for 'cheap publicity' and to hide his own mistakes.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said the AAP leader was levelling allegations on the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to divert attention from the corruption charges faced by the city government.
"The Kejriwal government sat on the clarifications sought by the Ministry of Home Affairs for three days and then blamed the Centre for stopping the budget," Sachdeva said.
Addressing the House hours after the MHA's nod, Kejriwal said the practice of sending the Delhi government's budget to the Centre for approval is against the basic structure of the Constitution and democracy.
The chief minister said the provision will not stand judicial scrutiny for 'even two minutes', adding that the Centre's objection was a departure from tradition. "It happened for the first time."
"It is an attack on the Constitution. Even B R Ambedkar would not have thought of a situation where the central government would stop the presentation of a state government's budget," Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal said Delhi would have seen 10 times more progress had there been no tussles between the Centre and the city government.
Kejriwal said if the prime minister wishes to win Delhi, he will have to win the hearts of the people of the city first. "This is my mantra to him."
"You are the elder brother and I am the younger brother. I will reciprocate if you support me. If you want to win the heart of the little brother, love him," he said.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel suspended BJP legislator Vijender Gupta on Tuesday for a year till the next Budget session for allegedly obstructing the proceedings of the House.
Earlier in the day, Gupta had given a notice for breach of privileges over the alleged leaking of Budget details.
To this, the Speaker said, "As per rules, such notice needs to be given three hours before. You are also saying that it should be taken up for discussion. It seems the aim is to create a ruckus and waste the time of the House."
In a statement, Gupta said that 'this misuse of power by the ruling party has been unprecedented and totally unjustified'.
Gupta labelled it as a 'prime illustration of the spiteful politics of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who disregards democratic values'.