The Delhi government recently called for a special session of the Assembly to reassert its demand of granting full statehood to Delhi. The announcement comes at a time when the power tussle between the state government and the Lieutenant Governor has become more bitter after the recent acrimony over the installation of CCTV cameras.
On 22 May, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia tweeted the announcement —
Delhi Assembly's 3-days special session of on 6, 7 & 8 June to discuss and decide on the 'demand of full statehood' for Delhi.
People of Delhi cannot be denied their rights. Looking forward to meaningful debates.
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) May 22, 2018
However, it is noteworthy that the Delhi Assembly has no power to make the demand a reality.
“What will this special session achieve? The Delhi government has no power to change Delhi’s status to full-fledged statehood on its own. This right is exclusively reserved with the Centre. Calling a special session of the Assembly just to discuss the issue again is nothing but a waste of time and resources,” said Ashok Agarwal, an activist and lawyer in the Delhi High Court.
In 2015, the state government called for an emergency meeting after a notification by the Union home ministry which said that the inclusion of “services” in the reserved list meant that the Delhi government would have no power in the appointment of senior officers.
A public meeting was also called before the Assembly session, during which the demand for full statehood was extensively discussed.
In the same year, the state government released a draft Bill to grant Delhi statehood, which, according to a source, was sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Arvind Kejriwal had also stated that Delhi would hold a Brexit-style referendum on the issue of statehood.
The state government's call for a special Assembly session came in for criticism from the BJP, which is in the Opposition in Delhi.
“Although the Delhi government is making a hue and cry over the issue of statehood, the government does not seem to be interested in taking it to its logical conclusion,” says Vijender Gupta, Opposition leader in the Delhi Assembly.
He further said, “Though the AAP raises the same issue every year, it does not follow up on it. Even the draft bill for Delhi’s statehood which was sent to the Centre was not pushed ahead by it. Why did the AAP MPs not raise the issue in Parliament?” he questioned.
The BJP also had assured full statehood in its first Delhi-specific manifesto published in 2014, a promise which it has not fulfilled till now.
“The will to grant Delhi statehood is certainly there. But there are establishments related to the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence which cannot be under the jurisdiction of the state. The state government has failed to chalk out a solution about how to keep these establishments out of the purview of the proposed state,” says Gupta.
The draft Bill that the Delhi government had sent to the Centre proposed to keep the New Delhi Municipal Council area, in which most of the establishments under the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs are located, out of the proposed state.
However, Gupta says that the situation is a complicated one. He pointed out that thousands of people live in this area, and deciding their fate with a one-line solution would be a gross mistake.
Laws related to the establishment of ministries of defence and external affairs are often cited as impediments in the way of granting full statehood to Delhi.
Gupta also said that there is a fear of 'misuse of power' by the state government. “If Delhi is granted statehood, then the police would come under the state government. What if a party as irresponsible as the AAP remains in power in Delhi and uses this power to implicate its political rivals?,” he questioned.
He said that the AAP should focus on making the best use of the power available to it under existing laws for the benefit of the people.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, agreeing with the view of the BJP in this regard, says, “The Delhi government is fully capable of providing the right to health to citizens while remaining well within its jurisdiction. This would be a path-breaking move and a great service to the people. However, for some unknown reason, the Delhi government has taken no move in this direction.”
He also said that there are many other similar steps which the Delhi government could have taken to ensure better governance, but it has shown no sign of willingness to do so.
Anil Bajpai, an AAP MLA, told Firstpost that the special session has been called to remind the BJP of its promise of granting Delhi statehood.
“As Delhi does not have the status of a full-fledged state, we are not able to ensure governance. We demand that the people in Delhi should be given the right to govern themselves.”
Updated Date: May 24, 2018 22:31 PM