Referendum seems to be the flavour of the season — from Greece to Delhi. The Kejriwal government wants Delhiites to decide if the Capital should be granted status of a state, a contentious move that could further strain its bitter ties with the Centre.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has asked the urban development department to come up with a feasibility report specifying a timeline, sources said.
“Do a referendum in Delhi. Draft a law and create machinery for referendum,” says the CM note – HT has a copy of it – addressed to the urban department and circulated among other sections.
The CM has also asked the urban and legal departments to speed up work on a Delhi statehood bill that will be sent to the Centre for its consent.
“The government is keen on having the election commission conduct the referendum as it will carry more weight. The law department has also been asked to discuss the legal issues,” an official said. “In case that option is not available, the government is ready to conduct it on its own.”
Delhi has a unique status in the Indian union. It is a union territory with a legislative assembly that limits the power of the Delhi government.
Law and order, including police, land and civic bodies are controlled by the Union government, which has led to a raging turf war with the Kejriwal government.
Sources said the referendum plan was discussed by Kejriwal in a recent meeting with his ministers. The urban department was asked to give various options available to the government for conducting the referendum.
While statehood for Delhi was part of the Aam Aadmi Party manifesto, the BJP that had been raising the issue for years kept mum on it ahead of the February state election.
“Referendum”, though not in its strictest form, has been a vital part of the AAP’s politics. When the party made its poll debut in Delhi in 2014 and subsequently formed the government with the Congress’ support, it said the decisions were taken after getting people’s go-ahead.
The opposition and critics, however, say the vote is not broad-based as the participants are either party members or supporters and results do not reflect the larger opinion.