Congress shows no support for Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s demand for full statehood for New Delhi, raised in a bid to corner the BJP before the Lok Sabha polls.
While speaking to Firstpost, Sheila Dikshit, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief, on Wednesday questioned the timing of the demand made by Kejriwal.
“Why has the issue been raised now when there is no Parliament session scheduled and the present government at the Centre is also about to end its term?” asked Dikshit, the former Delhi chief minister, hinting that the demand is only a political gimmick.
Opposition to the demand from the Congress comes at a time when the AAP has announced a statewide movement demanding full statehood for Delhi.
Congress' thumbs down to the demand is seen as a setback for the party, debilitating the movement before it even started. It also raises questions on the possibility of the proposed alliance between the Congress and the AAP before Lok Sabha polls, as it shows that the parties are yet to come together on basic issues.
Kejriwal had on Wednesday tweeted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
Sir. Delhi is also waiting for its statehood day. U had promised to the people of Delhi that you wud grant full statehood to Delhi. Kindly do it sir. People of Delhi have faced injustice for 70 years now. https://t.co/qj9AyIrL8X
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 20, 2019
Earlier on Monday, Kejriwal had demanded full statehood for Delhi and Puducherry while participating in a protest led by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy against Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi.
Narayanasamy on Monday had ended his six-day long sit-in protest after a meeting with Bedi, with whom he had a tug of war over the powers of the elected government.
Later that day, AAP — in an official statement announcing agitation — had said, “AAP will take to the people all the manifestos of BJP released in every previous election including the latest Delhi’s specific manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP had promised statehood for Delhi, if it was voted to power. Delhi voters gave them all seven Lok Sabha seats in 2014 only to be deceived by the Modi-Shah duo which does not like Delhi at all.”
Dikshit said that to grant full statehood to Delhi, amendment to constitutional provisions is required and hence, the demand cannot be fulfilled without the approval of the Parliament. Further casting doubt over the practicability of the demand, she wondered what would be the financial condition of the Delhi government in case the capital city is granted full statehood.
Interestingly, former DPCC chief Ajay Maken had expressed his reservation on the demand of full statehood for Delhi, claiming it would bring about extra financial burdens for Delhiites.
He had said that if full statehood means losing the national capital status, Congress is opposed to it. He had also said that the expenditure for Delhi Police is borne by the Centre, which might not remain the same if Delhi becomes a state. He also said that funding received from the Centre for the universities in Delhi and super-specialty hospitals may also be jeopardised if Delhi becomes a full-fledged state.
Towing a line similar to Maken, Dikshit also said, “We cannot say what would be the fund status of the Delhi government if it becomes another state. At present, we get funding from the Centre easily because it is an Union Territory and also the National Capital. But the same cannot be said if it becomes a full-fledged state.”
She added that even Congress had earlier wanted full statehood for Delhi but eventually, the demand was dropped.
“When we were in power, we also tried for it. But the Constitution has to be amended for that,” she said.
Significantly, Delhi is currently governed by the 69th amendment to the Constitution which inserted Articles 239 AA and 239 AB and came into on 31 January, 1992. This provides for a council of ministers and a legislature in Delhi but gives the Centre control over law and order, land and services.
Kejriwal’s tweet aimed to remind the prime minister of BJP’s promise in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls manifesto to grant Delhi full statehood.
Significantly, the same demand was not seen in the saffron party’s 2015 Delhi assembly manifesto.
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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2019 19:56:27 IST