Statehood is Kejri's big priority

Statehood is Kejri's big priority

But Narendra Modi govt appears reluctant to play ball with him

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did not waste even a day after the poll results before raising the full statehood issue before the central government.

This will be his second bid to get the balance of power distribution tilted in favour of the Delhi government for serving the city better and end multiplicity of authority. But experts said statehood may not be the only solution for the problems in the city.

Kejriwal’s confidant, Manish Sisodia, hoped that the issue of full statehood for Delhi might get resolved soon.

“This is a golden opportunity, as voters have given a convincing majority to the state government and the central government. Some path-breaking decisions on the issue can be taken,” he says, pointing to an assurance given to the Delhi government by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

During the campaign for the recently-concluded Delhi Assembly elections, the BJP dropped the issue of full statehood from its vision document – a probable indication of the saffron party sensing defeat and being in no mood to let go of central government’s hold over the city.

Full statehood – which would automatically bring control over land use and law and order – was identified by Kejriwal as his biggest target when he staged a sit-in near the Railway Bhawan on January 20 last year.

The 46-year-old activist-turned-chief minister is not the first chief minister to raise the statehood issue and his Aam Aadmi Party is not the first political outfit to talk about it.

The Delhi Police and the Delhi Development Authority, which owns land in the city, are currently controlled by the central government through Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. The Delhi government has no say on the issues of law and order and land use.

Sisodia says the partial statehood in the city at present is nothing more than an illusion. Many AAP leaders claim the central government’s control over the Delhi Police is without legal backing.

“For taking full control over Delhi Police, an amendment in the Constitution was required but this was never done,” says a leader. The control over the city’s police force has been taken over through orders by bureaucrats, he says.

But sources in Delhi government said any change in the present scenario of power distribution would require a constitutional amendment.

Former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal is of the opinion that the scenario in Delhi over control of law and order and land is based on the Sarkaria Commission'’s report on the relationship and balance of power between state and central governments. The Constitution was amended in 1993 and law and order and land were kept under the control of Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor.

Saigal says the issue of statehood had been raised by earlier Delhi governments but despite discussions not much headway could be made.

“A large number of MPs want the central government to look after their security in the national capital so they want Delhi Police to be kept under the federal government,” says Saigal.

Any change in the distribution of powers will now require a constitutional amendment and the MPs will have a say in it, he says.

He warned that politicians tend to project full statehood to be the solution for all problems being faced in the city which is not correct. “The problem is the growing population. What is needed is to check migration which, politically, is a difficult route,” he says.

There have been studies which said the city’s population holding capacity is between nine to 12 million. But we already have touched 18 million and things are going to get worse if migration is not checked. “Even if statehood is granted to Delhi, the problems of water and power shortage will remain,” he warns.   

Another opposition to the successive Delhi government’s demands for statehood has been contention that the Supreme Court, embassies, seat of the President and other constitutional authorities are in the city and their functionaries keep moving around in the city so the central government would be better off taking care of their security.

However, Saigal agrees, the state government could be give a little more say in issues related to the land.

The Delhi government could have a role in framing the master plan of the city and land use. However, even if that is done the chief minister and his team should be bound by the technical experts of the Delhi Development Authority.

“It should not be the case that the politicians start converting parks and green zones into schools or hospitals, the technical experts should have primacy over others,” says Saigal.

Delhi Congress leader Arvinder Singh says: “Some people suggested dividing the city into two policing zones – one protected by a central government force and the other by the state government-controlled police force – but that was also ruled out as this is not feasible.”

A suggestion for having a separate police force for New Delhi Municipal Council area has also been circulated a number of times but it has not been accepted by all stakeholders.

Rohini legislator Vijender Gupta says the BJP wants a discussion between all stakeholders. “Full statehood has too many implications and such a serious issue cannot be used as a tool to influence voters ahead of polls,” he says.

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