Delhi doesn’t need Statehood
by Rijul Singh Uppal on 08 Jan 2014 3 Comments
“There are provisions for stripping the powers of MCD if they don’t clear map layouts for construction of new schools,” threatened Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s new Education Minister in the capital’s first Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government led by Arvind Kejriwal and supported by the Congress, just two days after being sworn in. One hoped the nation’s intelligentsia might have something to say about this, but nothing was heard, perhaps due to shell shock over the electoral verdict and the confusion over the formation of government itself.


Sisodia’s remark came in the context of his party’s promise in its manifesto to open 500 new government schools in Delhi. This is a classic example of dole-economic policies wherein, instead of improving, auditing and creating better facilities for the already existing 1000-odd government schools in the city, the party just wants to make new schools (with no idea about how to run them). So now, the municipal corporations led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) face a hostile UPA Government at the Centre and an even more hostile State Government led by the AAP.


Let’s examine the basic issue. The Municipal Corporation (split into three in Delhi on the whim of the former Chief Minister) is one of the most indispensable organs in a city, more so because the City-State concept has failed in Delhi, notwithstanding the fact that all politicians are in denial on this score.


What the city really needs, therefore, is more powers for the municipal corporation(s) rather than allowing hostile State Governments to play around with the MCD. Sheila Dikshit unfairly and needlessly trifurcated the MCD. The BJP had been winning MCD elections continuously and this was perceived as a smart manoeuvre to negate the BJP influence by ‘helping’ the Congress to get control of some part of the old municipality. As is well known, this did not happen. While Congress claimed that trifurcation would lead to better governance, it may be noted that the MCD covered an area totalling only 540 sq miles. Hence, the rationale behind trifurcation was a farce. The result is that today Delhi has three elected Municipal Corporations, one Centre-appointed New Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Defence-run Delhi Cantonment Board.


The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, himself a highly successful Chief Minister, rightly questioned the functioning of the Sheila Dikshit Government. Indeed, in a City-State with no agricultural economy, no burden of having to make state highways, no police responsibility, with not even the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) under State control, the question may well be asked as to the relevance of the office of Chief Minister. How could Delhi suffer if it reverted to Union Territory (UT) status and was run by a Mayor under the supervision of the Lt. Governor? The need of the hour, for the benefit of the citizens, is for Delhi to be reverted to a UT.


To elaborate, one must understand the electoral behaviour in Delhi. In the recently concluded Assembly elections, the long-settled Delhi residents noted to their dismay that the major pitch by all political parties was to migrant voters (slum dwellers) on the single issue of policing (law and order, women’s security), more than anything else. Security emerged as a major point in all manifestos after the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi. It may be recalled that after the Delhi High Court blasts of 2011, then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit lamented her inability to control the security situation in the capital, which she repeated in December 2012, because the Office of the Chief Minister of Delhi did not have power over the Delhi Police and is under the control of the Central Government. This resulted in all political parties, including the Delhi unit of the Congress, demanding the transfer of powers of the Delhi Police to the Delhi Government. This is just a whitewash.


Regarding the wooing of migrant voters with false promises, Delhi’s new Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party said they were going to increase policing/ women constabulary/ night patrolling etc. But the city’s new migrant population and even many of those who have lived their whole lives in the city don’t know that the Delhi Police gets its powers and jurisdiction from the Ministry of Home Affairs. After all, a city that houses the Prime Minister and the Central Government, Parliament and other important establishments, many of which need multiple layers of security to ensure the safety of the lives of elected representatives and important officials, cannot allow its Police Department to be handled by an authority subordinate to the Centre. Nor can a State Government, in fairness, be expected to take responsibility of the national capital and leaders; that is simply punching above its weight.


So, even as a new, immature, and hostile government in Delhi dreams of stripping away the powers of the MCD, senior leaders of the Delhi unit of the BJP must understand the overall situation and focus on getting Delhi its due rather than wistfully eyeing the post of the Chief Minister. They should work to re-unite the trifurcated MCD and end the sham of partial statehood of the capital city. To begin with, the false sense of power that this gave the local Congress leadership is behind the unprecedented scams the city witnessed in the last 15 years, which went largely unchallenged only because few had bothered to study the actual powers delegated to the half-State.


This is why the State Government managed to illegally force the ‘voluntary’ Aadhaar upon the citizenry. The scheme is being forcefully implemented for each and every interaction with State, even those that have nothing to do with subsidy. For instance, the property registration offices in Delhi, despite the Supreme Court ruling Aadhaar non-mandatory, are insisting upon it because the State Government has (deliberately?) failed to issue a notification to the effect that Aadhaar is non-mandatory. The disrespect to the apex court can be seen in the fact that even the witness to the registration is mandated to bring an Aadhaar identification.


If Delhi is truly a full State, why does it still have a Lt Governor, and not a full Governor? The answer, of course, is that this is not plausible in the city where the President of the Republic resides. It follows that there is no need for this half-office, and anyway, the Chief Minister of a city-state can never enjoy the same status as a full Chief Minister in States like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.


In conclusion, the following questions are worth considering in depth:

-        Why was a municipality covering an area of only 540 sq. miles trifurcated if not out of hostile politics?

-        What benefit does the office of Delhi Chief Minister provide to the city?

-        Will it not be more efficient to revert to a Union Territory with an elected Municipality with additional wards, if needed?

-        Why should the tax-payer bear the burden of paying for an unnecessary State Government?


The author’s twitter handle is

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top