Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal unveiled on Wednesday a draft bill seeking full statehood for Delhi, seeking to build political consensus on a tricky issue that would need the backing of the BJP and Congress.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader asked the BJP and Congress to “rise above political differences” and support the State of Delhi Bill 2016 that will need Parliament’s ratification.
He also sought public opinion on the bill that has been put up on the Delhi government website till June 30.
The National Capital is governed under a complex pattern with key departments such as law and order under the lieutenant general who reports to the Union home ministry.
Kejriwal accuses the BJP-led Centre of using the lieutenant general for political vendetta against his government. Since storming to power with a huge mandate in 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has had several face-offs with the Centre over issues ranging from appointment of the Delhi chief secretary to raids on one of Kejriwal’s officials.
Kejriwal, who had made full statehood a major election prank, is seeking to bring law and order, bureaucracy and land records under the state’s jurisdiction.
Last year, AAP had planned to hold a referendum on the issue but dropped idea after experts said it would be “unconstitutional”.
Both the Congress and BJP, however, said the bill was an attempt by Kejriwal to divert attention from AAP’s “poor performance” in Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) by-polls held on Sunday.
Kejriwal, who addressed a press conference to announce the bill, said Congress and BJP had batted for Delhi’s statehood.
“(Former deputy prime minister) LK Advani had tabled the Delhi Statehood Bill in Parliament in 2003…But for some reason it got lapsed. Even (the) Congress has spoken out for statehood in the past,” Kejriwal said.
Ahead of the assembly polls last year, the BJP did not mention its two-decade-old electoral promise in a vision document released by its chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi.
“The BJP struggled the most on the issue. They have consistently raised it. We are merely taking their resolve forward by inviting public opinion on this draft,” Kejriwal said.
The AAP national convenor said he will write to and meet a host of political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking support for the bill, which has kept the high-profile Lutyen’s Delhi and Delhi cantonment area out of its jurisdiction.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said “the people of Delhi will have to decide whether they want Delhi to remain the national capital or attain full statehood as both cannot co-exist”.
BJP leader Vijender Gupta termed the bill “mischievous” and said it was unacceptable as it aims to bifurcate Delhi.