India's top court slams failure to form Delhi government

NEW DELHI - India's top court slammed top officials Tuesday for dragging their feet in forming a new government in the national capital more than eight months after the last administration resigned in chaos.

New Delhi, a city of some 17 million people, has been without a proper government since February, when the capital's firebrand chief minister Arvind Kejriwal quit to protest the blocking of an anti-corruption bill.

The Supreme Court urged authorities and political parties to resolve the impasse, saying Delhi residents deserved a democratically elected government.

"We gave you enough time but nothing has happened so far," Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, who heads a five-judge bench, told the court.

"The people of Delhi have a right to have a democratically elected government and not be ruled by the president," he said.

The court was directing its criticism at Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and the national government which have been running the city-state since Kejriwal quit as head of a minority administration.

Kejriwal, an anti-corruption campaigner and a self-described "anarchist", had only taken power 49 days before his shock resignation.

He has since been demanding fresh elections in the capital, a move opposed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has the biggest number of seats in the Delhi assembly.

Kejriwal's upstart Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party lodged a petition in the Supreme Court seeking new polls in the hope of strengthening its fortunes.

The court said Tuesday that President Pranab Mukherjee has now instead given his consent to a proposal to invite the BJP to form a new government.

Kejriwal, a former tax official, and his party sent shockwaves through India's political establishment when it scored a series of stunning successes during local elections in Delhi last year.

The party rode a wave of support for its ideals of cleaning up corruption, tapping into seething voter anger over graft scandals that plagued the former national Congress party-led government.

Kejriwal's resignation left him free to campaign in the national election in May, which the BJP won in a landslide.

Kejriwal disappeared from the spotlight after his party fared poorly in the general elections, and he failed to win a seat now held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.