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Delhi dichotomy

Delhi dichotomy

Statehood has always eluded Delhi; with the Centre and the local government tussling over the issue that has again picked up momentum in the wake of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal's revived pursuit for the same. Part of the argument which always presents a condescending approach to the impasse is the fact that Delhi – home to 1.9 crore people – is the national capital. Though geographically, and given its population, Delhi stands eligible to become a state but less to anyone's surprise, granting Delhi statehood based on its eligibility based on size and population, has never been a matter of discussion. Instead, discussions pertain to Article 239 AA and ensuing special status granted to National Capital Territory of Delhi with respect to the control regime. Specifically discussing the control regime is relevant since all episodes of debate over statehood vis a vis Delhi have their roots in the power tussle that prevails over Delhi. When it comes to accountability, Delhi has several authorities taking partial onus over a variety of sectors. Be it cleanliness, development, transport, et al, the fact is there have been multiple stakeholders mandatorily invited to round table discussion whenever drafting a master plan for any specific development is the agenda. In a nutshell, all powers reside with the Delhi government except Law & Order, Land, and Services – which rest with the Centre. But to say the least, these two areas are enough for Kejriwal's stand since in his view, the Centre has created hurdles in all major welfare decisions devised by the Delhi government. Kejriwal's decision to resort to an indefinite hunger strike from March 1 comes after his comprehensive efforts to persuade the Centre exhausted; latest being the SC ruling by a 2-judge bench on February 14 which restrained Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch from probing Central government employees and the matter being referred to a larger bench, much to Kejriwal's dissatisfaction. From the outset, it is perceivable that Delhi, recipient of the special status, has been a totally different case than any other UT or State. Its administration is singular in the country's democratic rule as is its significance. To a layman, the argument that statehood cannot be provided because Delhi is the national capital may be enough but supplementary questions facilitate inquisitiveness. Why has Delhi not been given the status of a functional state like others? In his argument, Kejriwal urges the public to realise that the Centre has hindered Delhi's welfare decisions rendering the residents of Delhi subservient to the Centre. But is development really hindered or is the appetite for full authority over the national capital the bone of contention? Law and order essentially pertain to maintenance. Development is a matter of qualitative growth. Modi-Kejriwal dissent over power has done its round in the dailies and people are aware of the setbacks either party had to face due to non-cooperation between two impressive mandates – landslide majority in respective assemblies. While the idea of statehood seems more of an election gimmick, especially since it has always hovered around the time when elections are due, cooperation between the Centre and local government as an effective means of handling power standoff has been severely underestimated. During Shiela Dixit's 15-year tenure, Delhi witnessed development despite a denied statehood due to better Centre-state cooperation and coordination. Lingering to the issue of statehood leaves development stagnant. The four years under AAP have seen significant development across sectors yet Kejriwal's discontent piques curiosity in the locals. Politicising the issue of statehood can lead to the average resident getting confused over the issue and partly believing that denied statehood is the primary reason for any obstruction in development, though that is not the case. Delhi has had tremendous development throughout the years; much of it can be accredited to the fact that it is indeed the national capital. But Kejriwal's concern, as the local incumbent, focusses on entire Delhi – the periphery and the areas apart from NDMC which, in his perspective, are subservient to the Centre. An election-time pursuit or genuine interest, the question of Delhi's statehood, challenging Article 239 A, should be advocated on matters where conflict is evident and substantiated – if at all. The perpetuated statehood debate eclipses the predominant objective which is development. The precarious cooperation between Delhi government and the Centre is what writes the narrative of the national capital, and which is independent of the statehood debate as evident from years of functioning. The statehood argument may stretch to unimaginable extents but the subject matter will always stick to mature coordination between stakeholders working on the larger picture of resolving the contradiction and undertaking progress are paramount for Delhi. Rather than tussling over short-term political gains, a dialogue over restructuring Delhi's governance and functionality are more pertinent, and more suited to resolve the longstanding contradiction of statehood – which has reaped nothing but abject dissent.

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