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Explainer: What does statehood mean for Delhi?

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded full statehood for the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

June 12, 2018 / 03:59 PM IST

In an ear-twitching announcement, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declared in the Assembly yesterday that he will campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if the saffron party grants full statehood status to Delhi.

Kejriwal said, "I want to say to BJP, give full statehood status to Delhi before Lok Sabha polls, every vote of people will go in favour of BJP and we (AAP) will campaign for them in Lok Sabha election."

"But, if they (BJP) do not give full statehood to Delhi, people here will say that BJP walon, Delhi chodo (BJP, quit Delhi)," he added.

But how does the status of statehood affect governance, and the lives of Delhiites? Read below to find out what granting statehood to the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi is all about.

History

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Delhi is a befuddling case of governance. It is identified as a Union Territory under ‘Government of Part ‘C’ States Act, 1951’ which effectively gives a Legislative Assembly to Delhi. Under Section 21 of this Act, the government of Delhi has the power to formulate laws on all matters mentioned in the State and Concurrent Lists of the Seventh Schedule, except matters pertaining to:

1. Public order and police

2. Municipal services like water, drainage, electricity, transport, etc

3. Land

4. Jurisdiction of courts

Even though the Delhi government might seem to have autonomy on major issues barring the exceptions, the provision lends significant power to the Centre to control the steering wheel from the back seat.

In 1958, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was formed to look after essential services in Delhi and coordinate with respective departments at the Centre. Its constitution was entrusted with the mandate.

In December 1991, the recommendations of the Committee on Reorganisation of Delhi Set-up formed under the Rajiv Gandhi government were approved by both houses, and the 74th Constitution Amendment Bill was passed. This amendment brought in Articles 239AA and 239AB into the Constitution on how the NCT of Delhi will be governed.

According to Clause(4) of the Article 239AA, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) is supposed to act on the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and his council of Ministers. In the case of conflict between the two, the matter is to be laid before the President of India, although the LG has complete autonomy in the case of urgent matters.

What is the current status of Delhi?

Currently, Delhi is governed by multiple authorities –

1. The Government of Delhi : currently led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his council of ministers

2. Three Municipal Corporations – East, North and South

3. New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) – for New Delhi and Lutyens’ Delhi

4. Delhi Cantonment Board – Exclusively for the Delhi Cantt Area

5. Delhi Development Authority (DDA) – exclusively for matters pertaining to land

6. Lieutenant Governor – for matters that are not a prerogative of the Government of Delhi (Law and order, jurisdiction od courts, etc. mentioned above)

7. Government of India – On a variety of issues across departments

This multiplicity of governing authorities leads to chaos, overlapping of duties and jurisdictions, conflict and moreover an acute lack of accountability within these bodies.

What triggered the AAP to put forth this demand?

The AAP government, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, has expressed severe criticism of a ‘bureaucratic rule in the capital’ in the absence of statehood. Three months after the AAP got a landslide victory in the assembly elections conducted in February 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs wrested the services of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) from the Delhi government. This meant that Kejriwal’s government lost all power to reprimand unscrupulous officers and take disciplinary action against those who engage in corrupt practices. However, those who do not understand the nitty-gritties of the Constitution won’t know who to hold accountable in the case of a violation and will hold the government responsible.

Similarly, the Kejriwal and his Cabinet that came to power after winning 67 on 70 seats, has no say in the issues pertaining to recruitment and conditions of service of officials of the IAS, DANICS, or clerks.

Hence the demand of full statehood that will not just mitigate overlapping of jurisdiction between the Delhi government and the Centre, but also ensure accountability and hence ease the process of policy making.

Have other political parties demanded/promised statehood to Delhi?

BJP veteran LK Advani had introduced the bill to grant statehood to Delhi in the parliament in 2003 in the run up to assembly elections in Delhi. The bill was reportedly endorsed by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which was led by Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee.

The BJP had promised statehood to Delhi in their election manifesto before the 2013 and 2015 Delhi Assembly elections and yet again before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress had also promised statehood to Delhi in the run-up to the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections.

What would statehood mean for Delhi?

Granting full statehood to Delhi would mean a state controlled police except in Lutyens’ Delhi, which implies the Delhi government will be held accountable for the crime figures in the capital. The Lieutenant Governor (incumbent: Anil Baijal) will be replaced by the Governor.

This status will extend to other departments which are currently under the prerogative of the Centre—they will be answerable to the Delhi government and hence directly to the people of Delhi who have voted the latter to power.

Full statehood would also impact the finances of the state where even though the Delhi government will earn more through revenues it will have to shell as much for new projects which is currently taken care of by the Centre. This could mean added tax burden on the people of Delhi.

So, while Kejriwal has demanded for statehood, he must be well prepared for extensive restructuring in the case it is granted.
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