Kejriwal Vs Center: Is statehood demand for Delhi relevant?

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Video courtesy Headlines Today

By Ishan Kukreti

Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal and its Lt. Governor, Najeeb Jung are at daggers drawn over the issue of statehood for Delhi. The issue is as dear to Kejriwal as center’s reluctance over the same.

The two sides stand firm on their stand and there is reason enough, both overt and covert, for them to be so. The need to address the question of statehood for Delhi, given its size, population and governance, is inevitable. However, the ramifications of the same are mind-boggling.

According to the Constitution

Article 239 of the Constitution of India states –

“The President may appoint the Governor of a State as the administrator of an adjoining Union territory, and where a Governor is so appointed, he shall exercise his functions as such administrator independently of his Council of Ministers.”

Delhi being a Union Territory comes under the same Article. The Lt. Governor is the main administrator of Delhi. However, the 1991 Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCT) Act by the Parliament gave Delhi a quasi-state status with a Legislative Assembly.

Lt. Governor remains the main authority nonetheless, with the CM with the council of minister acting as an advisory body.

Delhi's Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung. Being a special UT, Delhi has a Lt. Governor rather than a Governor.
Delhi’s Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung. Being a special UT, Delhi has a Lt. Governor rather than a Governor.

Legislative Assembly of Delhi has the power to legislate over 26 state and 47 concurrent list subjects, barring issues relating to

1. Public Order
2. Police
3. Land

Arvind Kejriwal’s demand

The demand for Delhi’s recognition as a full-fledged state by Aam Aadmi Party holds water as the present status of National Capital makes it neither center’s nor state’s.

As law and order are not under the state government, maintaining public order becomes a nuisance. In fact, during 1984 riots the Delhi government was unable to control the violence as the headless central machinery had fallen to disarray.

At the end of the day, Delhi has to be run by the state government which without an accountable police force lacks a prominent tenet of a modern state and the means to execute its will. When push comes to shove, the government can only resort to a dharna. However the practicality of that move too is doubtful. Kejriwal’s Northern Block dharna as Delhi’s CM demanding the suspension of four police officers, on charges of non performance of duty, being the case in point.

Apart from Law and Order, land is another important issue. Development work in Delhi is carried out by Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which, again, is under the center. This means, to fulfill his promise to slum dwellers of permanent houses, Arvind Kejriwal will have to go through DDA and the central government, increasing red tape and even chances of corruption.

DDA comes under central government.
DDA comes under central government.

Similar fate will await AAP as and when it tries to build towers for free WiFi.

Center’s contention

Central government’s reluctance to make Delhi a state, like any other, is mainly because Delhi is the national capital of India. The city-state houses the national Parliament, Supreme Court, central government offices among others. Making Delhi a state would bring the center under the state government, which is an absurd situation, to say the least.

The capital houses many national structures, which is a big concern in the statehood issue.
The capital houses many national structures, which is a big concern in the statehood issue.

Delhi is not just the seat of the national government, but also the center of international diplomacy which houses embassies and is frequented by international envoys. This puts the proposition of granting statehood to Delhi in the soup.

Moreover, Delhi with an annual budget allotment of 40,000 crores, out of which only two thirds is raised by it, survives on the finances of nation as a whole. This makes all states have an equal claim over it.

Delhite’s stake

A simple fact that is missed amidst the deafening political clamor and passion for a state specific sort of patriotism for ‘Statehood for Delhi’ is the practicality and profitability of the move for the people of Delhi.

Being the national capital, Delhi gets major financial inputs from the center right now apart from subsidies. Absence of this financial support would increase the burden on the state government and subsequently on the people. Delhi Metro, many stadiums and public places are being run by the central government right now. Bearing the complete burden of theses will prove difficult for the state government.

Bearing the complete burden of DMRC will prove difficult for the state government.
Bearing the complete burden of DMRC will prove difficult for the state government.

Chintan Raghuvanshi, Assistant Commissioner, IRS says, “One of the benefits to the people once Delhi becomes a state will be through Delhi’s ability to ask for better deals from the center and a larger share of centrally collected taxes. However with Delhi being a major economic center, the new state government will also be in a position to levy new taxes on top of the already existent ones.”

Postscript

A full-fledged statehood for Delhi would mean bifurcating the state in two; Delhi, the national capital and Delhi, the state. It would entail division of the total governmental apparatus, including the police, government offices etc. Plus, Delhi as a state, would lose its special status that it enjoys as the national capital right now.

Considering the pros and cons of the issue, readjusting Delhi’s status should include a smaller national capital region and a state region of Delhi, somewhat along the lines of Vatican City or City of London.

Police should be under the state government to facilitate its functioning, while a centralized force can serve the national capitol. Similar changes should be made to the functioning of DDA.

Given the current situation, statehood for Delhi, for all practical and political reasons, is a distant dream. However, recent developments have unleashed forces that can turn this dream into a waking reality requiring an objective and practicality driven discourse on the issue unspoiled petty politics.

Vatican City. Readjusting Delhi's status should include a smaller national capital region and a state region of Delhi.
Vatican City. Readjusting Delhi’s status should include a smaller national capital region and a state region of Delhi.