In maze of laws, CM left with little options

In maze of laws, CM left with little options

For a day in mid-May, Delhi did not have a chief secretary leaving the officialdom leaderless. An IAS officer, who issued the notification appointing an acting chief secretary on the instructions of Lieutenant Governor, found his office locked by chief minister’s men. The chief minister then targets the acting chief secretary in public, calling her an agent of the corporates.

The whole attention is now on the raging war on who has the last word on the capital. It is also the precursor of a battle  the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will be waging for capital’s full statehood, a theme the Congress and the BJP say is in their heart but conveniently put on back burner when they could make a difference.

Will full statehood solve Delhi’s problems? With Delhi being the national capital, questions have always been raised whether it is feasible to give the city government powers a state like neighbouring Haryana or a distant Kerala have. The State Reorganisation Report of 1955 said an explicit no. Congress’ Sheila Dikshit would know it better as she bore the brunt of all that went wrong during her tenure as chief minister (1998-2013). The police were not under her control but she faced public ire over law and order situation, especially the post-Nirbhaya months. Local politicians understood Delhi’s special status and are ready to compromise. What they wanted was a say in its affairs than the L-G. Public questioned them for L-G’s actions over which they did not have control.

In 1998, Home Minister L K Advani (1998-2004) understood the difficulties of the Delhi chief minister, then his party colleague Sahib Singh Verma, and issued a notification making L-G consult the chief minister on matters of public order, police and services. However, this was lost in a maze of other such notifications and even Dikshit was unaware of such a provision.

A chief secretary who worked under Dikshit told Deccan Herald recently that the bureaucrats were not aware of such a notification. Curiously, it is the same notification – which empowered a Delhi chief minister – that was amended under the watchful eyes of Advani’s successor Rajnath Singh, leading to the present imbroglio.

The fight between the Centre and L-G on one side and the state on the other is nothing new. The confrontation dates back to the 1950s when first Delhi Chief Minister Chaudhary Brahm Prakash took on Chief Commissioner Anand Pandit and Union Home Minister Govind Vallabh Pant over issues of control. This fight led to the dissolution of state Assembly. After Delhi got an Assembly in 1993, the confrontation continued.

Power tussle

The first fight erupted in 1994 when Madanlal Khurana, now a forgotten BJP leader, locked horns with L-G P K Dave over not consulting him on routing of files and transfers. His successor Sahib Singh Verma too found dealing with L-G a problem. Dikshit too had her share of tiffs, though minor ones – over increasing circle rates or on a fly over as well as transfers. The chief minister – L-G differences have now led to a full-scale war between Arvind Kejriwal and Najeeb Jung.

Local politicians may talk animatedly about full statehood, elaborating on how multiplicity of authority, which found mention in the 1955 report as well, in the city. However, they too know that not all powers may be vested in them like in other states.

For the common man, full statehood for Delhi is not an emotional issue like the one witnessed in Telangana in the recent past. This is mainly because most of the Delhiites belong to other states. For them, a state government is a state government and they would not distinguish between the “powerless” chief minister of Delhi and their home states. Here lies the challenge for Kejriwal.

The chief minister knows this better than any one else. Without actual powers, he will have to bear all ignominy for the lapses committed by others. He has actually created an opportunity for a confrontation, which he believes is a win-win situation for him. If his high decibel campaign yields result, it is would be a big political take-away for Kejriwal. If BJP does not yield, then again he would be the beneficiary.

BJP leaders would not love to fall into this trap. They would try to create as many obstacles in Kejriwal’s path and show that this anti-corruption crusader is not the man for Delhi. How would they do it is anybody’s guess. Now, it is time to wait for the political manoeuvres by Kejriwal and his opponents to bridge the less than two-km distance between Raj Nivas, the L-G’s office, and the Delhi Assembly. Bizarre are the ways of power and politics!

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