The Congress and BJP have termed as dangerous and unconstitutional the Kejriwal government’s plan to hold a referendum on statehood for Delhi. Unmoved, law minister Kapil Mishra even threatened stir in support of the demand.
HT wrote on July 6 that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had asked the urban development department for a feasibility report specifying a timeline for holding the referendum.
“It is a political issue. And if need be, we will launch an agitation. The AAP government will not sit quietly,” Mishra said on Monday.
For statehood, the Constitution would have to be amended and that power rested with Parliament alone, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said, accusing Kejriwal of fooling people.
“The idea of referendum as proposed by Kejriwal is a dangerous one and this is not only unconstitutional but it is anti-national as well,” Maken said.
His views were shared by former Lok Sabha secretary-general PDT Achary. “According to the Constitution, Parliament has absolute power to grant statehood to a union territory,” he said. Delhi didn’t have the power to legislate on its statehood.
In fact, there was also no provision in the Constitution for a referendum on deciding statehood of a union territory, Acharya said. “It is something, which is not done in India,” he said.
Former Delhi law minister and Malviya Nagar MLA Somnath Bharti said the 44th amendment had a provision for referendum when it concerned larger public interest and he was sure that Delhi would overwhelmingly vote for statehood.
The Congress got support from the BJP, which said the referendum plan was aimed at diverting attention from the government’s failures.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay said the proposal was yet another proof the AAP and Kejriwal’s anti-constitutional and anarchist nature. “.... At times it appears that the political vision of Kejriwal is inspired by Naxalism or terrorism because every issue which he raises is by adopting non-constitutional extremes,” he said.
The five-month-old AAP government and Centre are locked in an ugly turf over matters ranging from transfers and appointments to policing. It has a lot to do with the unique status that Delhi has in the Indian union. It is a union territory with a legislative assembly limiting powers of the Delhi government. Unlike other states, law and order, including police, land and civic bodies are controlled by the Union government.