By Rishvik Chanda:
Those who are deceitful and unreliable, are commonly and jokingly called politicians. But unfortunately, it is not altogether an unfair claim. Recently, the BJP has been accused of taking ‘U-turns’ on its promises. The long drawn tussle in Delhi between Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister, and Najeeb Jung, the Lieutenant Governor (LG), over the issue of appointment of bureaucrats, is only a small piece of the much larger story: the issue of statehood for Delhi.
According to the Constitution, Delhi is a Union Territory, but unlike most UTs, it has a Legislature. Most UTs have a single source of power, the LG, who is the administrator, but in Delhi, the Constitutional jurisdiction of the CM and the LG is being vociferously debated. Following the Gamlin episode, when the LG was declared by the Home Ministry to have absolute power regarding the appointment of bureaucrats, the AAP government immediately raised an issue, accusing the BJP of trying to take control of Delhi through the LG. AAP also accused the BJP of protecting corrupt officials, and demanded the status of full statehood for Delhi.
During the Lok Sabha polls campaign last year, the BJP promised to declare Delhi a full state if they came to power, acknowledging that it will help ensure proper coordination between various agencies. But Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of the BJP Central government, when asked about the issue said that giving full statehood status to the national capital is only possible with a general consensus in the country. Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia accused the BJP of going back on its words and called this it’s biggest ‘U-turn’.
Statehood is a very complex issue. Delhi is the country’s most important political region. Therefore issues such as police, law and order and land are under the purview of the Central government. But as stated on their website, AAP argues that Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Police and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) need to be under the Delhi government for reasons of efficient and synchronized planning and administration. An AAP official claimed that “Statehood would allow the Government to initiate better welfare schemes in the sectors of land, housing, education and health among many others.”
There are also a number of concerns with Delhi being granted full statehood. Many questions come up such as whether maintaining law and order in Delhi should be in the hands of the state government or is the Central government better equipped to handle security in the country’s capital. Also Delhi, if it does get statehood, will stop receiving Central governments subsidies.
Some see Kejriwal as a mere rabble-rouser while others see him as an idealist standing up to the BJP for what he believes are Constitutional rights. A two-day emergency session of the Delhi assembly began on 26th May to discuss the issue. The government of Delhi at loggerheads with the Central government is not a very assuring situation. Whatever the outcome, we can only hope that it comes soon.