Statehood not a raging issue but more powers needed for Delhi government, say experts

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By Nivedita Singh 

New Delhi, July 1 : The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has decided to give another push to its demand for full statehood to Delhi with a public campaign, but experts said it was not a burning issue among residents and a way should be found to give more powers to the elected government to make its work easier.

The issue of statehood for Delhi has been raised for the decades but no party has given it so much thrust as the AAP. It was a key part of its manifesto, the party had released a draft bill in 2016 and passed a resolution in June this year.

Its leaders — Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia — have consistently said that statehood will usher in speedier development of Delhi besides making the entire administration responsible to the elected representatives in the way it is in other states.

Delhi, at present, is a Union Territory with special status. Unlike other states, matters concerning law and order and land fall in the purview of the central government. And with the Centre controlled by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, AAP has been having a running battle for greater control and freedom to act.

Former Lok Sabha and Delhi Assembly Secretary Sudarshan Kumar Sharma said that Delhi can become a full-fledged state only if the constitution is amended. He said capital of a country has its own administrative requirements.

“Nowhere in the world is the capital of a nation is under the rule of a state government. The capital belongs to all,” Sharma told IANS.

Delhi got a full-fledged assembly in 1991 after the passage of the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act. The Act also provides that the Lieutenant Governor, appointed by the President, will be the administrator of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Sharma, who has written several books on issues related to Delhi, said the common man “was never and will never be interested in full statehood issues”.

“There have been movements for so many things in the country but people in Delhi never demanded such a thing (statehood),” Sharma said.

He said the issue had been raked up in the past and “there must be a reason all the previous government could not succeed in making Delhi a state”.

Former Lok Sabha Secretary General, P.D.T. Achary, said that the statehood demand is genuine and legitimate, especially when “the rift between the Centre and state government is so high”.

“The present situation is unacceptable. The major question is what sort of administration Delhi wants. There should be special arrangements. Some thought has to go into this,” he said, adding that the interest of the central government should also be taken into consideration.

Subrata Mukherjee, a political analyst who taught at Delhi University, said that the statehood issue has been articulated by many parties but has not been fulfilled — and there is no apparent demand for it among the people.

He said there was confusion due to multiplicity of authorities in Delhi and statehood can further complicate the issue.

“I feel it is not required. Delhi enjoys special powers. People don’t really want Delhi to be a full state. They want services and till the time they are being served, they are happy,” he said.

He said AAP had done well in health, education and they should keep doing good work with the powers they have. “Statehood is not desirable.”

Narender Kumar, Professor, Centre for Political Studies at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, said most capital cities in the world have structures similar to that of Delhi’s.

“I feel statehood is not required and would not be appropriate but there should be more powers with the Delhi government,” he said.

He noted that the demand for statehood had not been met when the same party was in power in Delhi and at the Centre and “now it is all the more difficult”.

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said her 15-year-tenure saw governments led by the BJP and Congress at the Centre.

“Things were not always as I wished them to be. I too faced issues, but instead of running to the public with all that (complaints), I tried to find solutions. We cannot stop all other work and sit with an issue. We worked and had a rapport with both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and with the Manmohan Singh government,” Dikshit told IANS.

“The only way to make Delhi a full state is to change the constitution. If they are able to do that, then it is fine; otherwise, Delhi is and will remain a Union Territory, partly governed by the Centre,” she said.

Dikshit said Congress had also demanded statehood but was not successful.

“We tried our best but we all have to respect the constitution,” she added.

BJP leader Vijender Gupta, who is the Leader of Opposition in Delhi assembly, contended that the AAP does not have any concrete plans about statehood and there should be a proper discussion on the issue.

“Just saying things will make no difference. Any new model that is proposed should not have flaws,” he said.