Delhi statehood or not, Arvind Kejriwal has been relegated to the role of mayor

During Brexit, one question often asked was what is the United Kingdom? And if Scotland was part of the UK, how come it had its own parliament?

Now, what is Delhi, for which the Aam Aadmi Party is seeking statehood, as others had before them but feebly? If Delhi is a state, or precisely, half-a state, what is New Delhi? New Delhi is the Lutyens-designed power centre of the country, the Capital of India, where the president lives, the Parliament is located. Then, what is Delhi?

Delhi is amid the National Capital Region (NCR), inside which is Delhi, and within it, the country’s capital, New Delhi, is ensconced. The correct description for Delhi state which is not a state is the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCToD), over which the AAP wants the government’s writ to run, not the lieutenant-governor’s.

They are like concentric circles, not independent of each other but with overlaps — overlaps that create governance issues, with multiplicity of agencies and authorities, some overarching, some limited to one. It is this that has been sought to be sorted out by making Delhi a full-fledged state, where the primacy is of the legislature, not the lieutenant-governor.

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

The Delhi High Court ruled on Thursday that the lieutenant-governor is the administrative head of the National Capital Territory, and that’s it. Which means, Arvind Kejriwal had been pointlessly bashing heads with Najib Jung on issues such as services (meaning appointing and transferring officers), probes etc that are not under the legislative’s purview. Read all about it here. Delhi was only a Union Territory.

The lieutenant-governor need not go by the council of ministers' advice. The state’s anti-corruption department cannot probe anyone under the purview of the Central government, nor can it appoint commissions of inquiry. Nor, as is the case, control the Delhi Police. In short, the likes of AAP and Kejriwal can only demand statehood, but the Delhi government cannot conduct itself like the government of a state.

It appears to be a highly personal battle between Kejriwal and Jung, but that is only so because only the AAP-led government has made a serious issue of statehood — more than any other party in the past. The Congress too had wanted it when Sheila Dikshit was the chief minister. Sahebsingh Varma, the BJP’s chief minister had also asked for the Delhi Police to be brought under the state’s control.

It is significant that both the BJP and Congress have had their turns at NCToD and also at the Centre, where the matters could have been resolved, but were not. Apparently, the shoe pinches when worn at the chief minister’s office, and not when worn as a prime minister in Lutyens' Delhi.

However, the issue never came up in the past as vigorously to the extent it has now. The reasons cited are important. A document by the present government — that is on the state government’s portal while canvassing for full statehood — has listed three.

One, it asks, how — with the Delhi Development Authority, which under the Union Ministry of Urban Development — to deal with land and housing issues. How to ‘’ensure efficient and effective land usage and allocation for its people and welfare programs if it has no say in it"?’

Two, in the absence of control of the police, the state government (or UT) finds it difficult to fix accountability for Delhi’s law and order when not the state, but the Union home ministry controls law and order. During the 2012 Delhi gangrape crisis, Dikshit too had said she could hardly ask anything of the police. That is why Varma had sat on a dharna demanding it, so did Kejriwal.

Three, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi — which covers all of the National Capital Territory minus Lutyens’ part — is supposed to work on health, education and sanitation, but the synchronisation in utilisation of resources is extremely poor.’’ But the State (or the UT government) has no control to direct it.

There is a document on the Delhi government's website that, from page 5, lists the views of the various parties and their leaders, including speeches in the legislature, moving of a statehood bill during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime. It is exhaustive, but a matter that can be resolved only politically by legislating full statehood. The Delhi High Court has, as it would, gone by the technicalities of the statutes in force.

The Delhi High Court ruled on Thursday that the lieutenant-governor is the administrative head of the National Capital Territory, and that’s it. Which means, Arvind Kejriwal had been pointlessly bashing heads with Najib Jung on issues such as services

These issues apart, there is the question of the larger NCR that surrounds the National Capital Territory which surrounds New Delhi. The NCR has a planning authority, but the NCR does not have a common building code, or else how could there be such a horrendous crisis that is the city called Gurgaon, now renamed Gurugram?

Outside the NCT but within the NCR, there are a large number of city governments — or civic bodies — that adjoin the NCT or the city of Delhi, but conduct their affairs as per the states to which they belong — Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The quality of governance of the respective states impinges on the conduct of these areas.

So, when you mean Delhi, you may mean any or all of it, but ultimately, it means a large mess. No wonder Kejriwal with his huge promises finds himself trammelled and wants statehood to get Jung off his back. Although a chief minister, not a lieutenant chief minister, Kejriwal finds he is cramped.

It is more like being a mayor than a chief minister.

Updated Date: Aug 05, 2016 10:16 AM

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