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Delhi cannot be a full-fledged State
All political parties including the Congress initially had Statehood for Delhi in their manifesto. But at least we realised as a responsible party that’s not possible
The question of the feasibility of Delhi being granted the status of a fully-fledged State is in the news nowadays. When we won elections, we also wanted it to be a State and all three of our manifesto stated that we will try to make Delhi a State as did those of the other major parties, including the BJP. But to be honest what I realized is that Delhi cannot be a State like other States. That is because Delhi happens to be the capital of India. The capital of a country cannot be a State. So, that is the logic behind it.
Article 239AA gives Delhi a position of not a State but a Union Territory though with State-like features and as a territory of the Union the L-G here, who is appointed by the Central Government, has certain powers with him which the elected Government does not. These two powers are land and police (law and order). What developed over the years was a complete understanding between the State Government and the Lieutenant Governor. In my three terms as Chief Minister, including the first when the NDA was in power at the Centre, whenever the State we needed the police there was never an issue with deployment; indeed, ministers in the State Government are provided security/protection as required by Delhi Police. Similarly, when we needed land for a hospital or any other building for public welfare it was given to us without any jhagda or fuss.
On police specifically, there used to be a monthly meeting of the MLAs, MPs and the relevant police officers to discuss the problems of their particular areas. Law and order issues were discussed at these monthly meeting and when we asked questions we were given answers by police. Where land was concerned, if we needed to build universities and hospitals, we need land.
My experience was we always got the land except in Dwarka and even there we got land to build a hospital because there was no hospital in the area. We got land for the Institute for Liver and Biliary Sciences Hospital we established in Vasant Kunj, which is now rated among the top medical institutes of its kind in the world. The point is that in this kind of unique situation, the State Government and Lieutenant Governor must work in coordination. There is nothing really wrong with the Delhi situation. It’s a very well-governed city, which has everything that you want. It has people migrating to it. It has jobs galore.
The governance model has to be different because it’s the capital of the country. The entire diplomatic corps and international institutions are based here. They also have to be looked after and one can’t have anything going amiss there. Delhi Government per se has all the powers required to provide
effective governance. As for powers to transfer officials, all officers are broadly speaking equally good or bad; it depends on how you handle them and how much work you can get out of them. This is an issue that tends to get overstated.
I also feel the proposal mooted by some to keep New Delhi areas (those coming under New Delhi Municipal Council) in the current model and give the rest of Delhi the status of what is called a full-fledged State, is unworkable and impractical. Imagine a situation where a crime is committed in an NDMC area and the suspect and runs towards a ‘full State’ area; effective policing will be impossible. This is a fantasy someone has dreamed up.
Our current Chief Minister hasn’t done a proper job of governance, I’m afraid. Roads, flyovers and infrastructure has not been enhanced after the Congress Government was voted out. School buildings are dilapidated, our work has not been taken forward. After the Sonia Vihar water treatment plant set up by us which resolved the South and East Delhi water crisis and for which I must thank Ms Mayawati who was in power in Uttar Pradesh at the time, no water capacity has been added.
In sum, I find that the entire so-called full Statehood demand is nothing but a diversion. Colonies are in a mess, trees are being cut but the focus of Mr Arvind Kejriwal and his government is on what it terms the ‘obstructionist’ role of the Lieutenant Governor/Centre and the amount of time ‘wasted’ because of it. Well, at least they admit to having wasted over three years of their term. For example, the Aam Aadmi Party Government said it was going to buy a number of buses to augment the current fleet. But for the past two years there has not been a single new bus on the road. They have failed to buy a bus; what’s that got to do with obstructionism?
As for the demand for full Statehood for Delhi is concerned, I am of the firm view that the rules are in place, the regulations are in place and the division of powers are in place. The Supreme Court has only re-endorsed these and not come up with anything new. But it has emphasized the need for coordination and cooperation. The Court has made no changes in the subjects which come under the purview of the Centre; the rest remains with the State. So, the State needs to get on with providing good governance.
But the question for Mr Kejriwal remains: Did you not know the governance model and division of powers extant in Delhi before you came to power? If one takes on the responsibility of being the Chief Minister of Delhi, one must first understand the administrative and constitutional make-up of the place. Finding excuses because of one’s inability to do so is not correct. To sit on a dharna at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, lying on a sofa with shoes off along with your ministerial colleagues is very undignified and does not behoove a Chief Minister. The point I’m making is that all these excuses not to do anything ring hollow. Melodrama is the right word for it. Just get on with the job. That’s all.
(The writer is a three-time Chief Minister of Delhi and a senior Congress leader. Views expressed are entirely personal)
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