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Delhi: Unique character makes statehood tricky

Delhi: Unique character makes statehood tricky
Former secretary of Delhi Assembly and Lok Sabha S K Sharma explains its ramifications and the politics which lies underneath to Tania Ameer in a candid chat.
Excerpts:

 
What is the issue of statehood when it comes to Delhi?
India has 29 states and 7 Union Territories (which includes Delhi). All UTs are governed directly by the President of India, while Delhi has been given a legislative assembly with a council of ministers with limited powers. In Delhi in Lieutenant Governor (LG) is the real administrator while the Chief Minister and his council work as an advisory unit. This is because the L-G is not bound by the advice of the council of ministers. As per Article 239, the legislative assembly of Delhi will have powers to make laws except in three subjects — public order, police and land. Delhi can only function peacefully if they cooperate with the Centre and the L-G.
 
Why is it that statehood becomes a key election issue in Delhi every time?
Delhi has multiple authorities which coexist. For example, you have the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Cantonment Board and others. Also the police are directly under the Home ministry. But each of them, as explained earlier, is not under the Chief Minister but come under the Central government. So, to have complete control over Delhi and have each of these areas under the Delhi government, the demand goes up during the election season to gain political mileage.
 
Is statehood implementable or viable in Delhi?

The national Capital should never be made into a state. It is not economically or financially viable at all. If Delhi is made into a state, where does the Capital of India go? With the exploding population here and also extremely sensitive existing constitutional authorities and institutions in Delhi, it is nearly impossible to have the idea of statehood turn into reality. The total budget of Delhi is around Rs 40,000 crores, which is far more than states like Jharkhand, Tripura and Uttarakhand even put together. From being the national Capital, it will be reduced to being a state like any other in the country. The special status will go. Also in Delhi, there is no source of income and for everything we are dependent on other states. The common man must oppose statehood as their livelihood will be severely affected if it comes through. The per capita income in Delhi is the highest in the country which is Rs 2 lakh as against the national average of Rs 68,000.
 
What is the politics behind demanding full statehood for Delhi?
It suits political elements to have complete control in the national Capital over the three areas — public order, police and land. They can then exercise complete control of the state. All the 70 MLAs will become power centres here. Right now, the power rests with the government of India. The question here is how does a common man benefit from statehood? Not at all.
 
What is the legality of the concept of statehood?

The conversion of Delhi to a state means the assembly will have to pass a unanimous resolution and send it to the Centre. Delhi currently has acquired this special status through constitutional provisions. Now, changes in this can only take place when amendments in the Constitution are introduced which can only happen when two thirds majority of Parliament agrees to it, which is nearly impossible.

Being the national capital, Delhi belongs to all states of the Indian Union. Why should a political party, for example Trinamool Congress, AIADMK and others, which have no stake in Delhi should agree to the capital of India being converted into a state? This idea is only suitable for the political class fighting for elections right now to float such a notion and if they have their way get it implemented as well. The worse sufferers would be the jhuggi jhopdi clusters, resettlement colonies and tenants who are residing here because Delhi will become a highly costly and unaffordable city without central aid.

AAP promises full statehood for Delhi if it wins

Wooing all sections in a bid to return to power, the AAP promised to push for Delhi’s statehood. It has also asked the BJP to clarify on its long-pending promise of granting full statehood to Delhi when the party comes to power. “The BJP, which twice in the past one year, promised full statehood for Delhi — first during 2013 December Assembly elections and then during 2014 Lok Sabha elections — appears to have gone back on its promise. Contrary to what the BJP in fact has been promising over the last two decades for Delhi, Kiran Bedi has stated in a report that “full statehood is not the main issue right now”. The AAP dares the BJP to let the people of Delhi know whether the statement is party’s official stand,” AAP leader Sanjay Singh said at a press conference. The AAP reiterated that the BJP’s insecurities had led it induct former members of the AAP into its party only days before the elections.

BJP Prez Amit Shah says statehood issue should not be ‘trivialised’

The BJP’s “Vision document” did not mention full statehood and the party had maintained an utter silence on this issue. Amit shah, BJP President, said the issue should not be trivialised by bringing it up during polls. “Full statehood should not be brought up during elections. That is something to be discussed by all stake holders in a detailed manner. It should not be made a political issue,” he said.

It was however, the BJP that had strongly raised the demand of full statehood in its political manifestos since 1998, claimed credit for presenting a bill in Parliament, blamed Congress for posing hurdles for years and finally deleted it from the political agenda – their “Vision Document 2015”, for the ensuing Delhi Assembly elections. “All the schemes in the vision document will ensure speedy development of Delhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Satish Upadhyay, Delhi BJP president. He refused to comment when confronted for not including the demand of full statehood in the “Vision document”.

Cong wants statehood ‘for effective governance’
Statehood for Delhi is back in the public eye. The Congress has been needling the BJP for refusing to make a clear commitment to support the demand. Ironically, a bill to grant statehood was tabled by the then deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna  Advani in 2003 but it lapsed with the 13th Lok Sabha.
Renewing its demand for full statehood “for effective governance without any shackles” in Delhi, the Congress came out with their manifesto for February 7 Assembly polls. The party also plans to increase the number of colleges, schools; increase in pension amount; installation of more CCTV cameras in colonies, buses; regularisation of unauthorised colonies; no charge for sewer connection among others.
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