Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday a draft bill for full statehood of the Capital is ready, setting the stage for fresh conflict with the Centre ahead of municipal elections next year.
The draft legislation calls for statehood for all of Delhi except areas controlled by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), which houses 1.5% of the city’s 16 million residents, including top bureaucrats and ministers.
This will effectively mean bifurcation of the city administration.
“Draft bill for statehood of Delhi ready. Will be soon placed in public domain for comments n suggestions from public,” Kejriwal tweeted on Saturday.
The AAP is looking to use the statehood issue — one of its longstanding demands — to corner the BJP that controls the east, south and north municipal corporations. The two parties are locked in a tough battle in Punjab that goes to the polls next year.
As the national capital, Delhi has a unique constitutional position.
An elected city government looks after local administration but police, services, land and important agencies such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are under the lieutenant governor, who reports to the Union home ministry.
This confusion is responsible for shoddy administration and rising crime in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party has repeatedly alleged.
If given full statehood, the DDA, law and order and the three corporations will come under the city government’s jurisdiction. This will lead to better coordination, AAP says.
“The issue of statehood is quite crucial for Delhi since a number of projects get delayed due to multiplicity of authorities,” a Delhi government official said.
The bill is likely to be made public next week and will be forwarded to the Centre for approval after a month-long public consultation. Parliament will have to clear the final bill.
Granting full statehood to Delhi was one of AAP’s poll manifesto promises in 2015. Kejriwal has repeated clashed with the Centre over the statehood issue in the past, issuing orders and transferring officers without the mandatory approval of L-G Najeeb Jung.
The draft is likely to have a provision for a separate police force for the NDMC area. The police of non-NDMC areas will come under the state government.
“We have no problem with NDMC area as it is governed by a separate act. For non-NDMC area, there should be a unified body and separate police, which should be under the state government,” the official added.
The draft will be posted on the website of Delhi government and city residents will have a say in whether the Capital should become a state or not.
Full statehood for Delhi has been a hot political issue since the Delhi assembly was formed in 1993. The BJP put it in their manifesto until the 2013 assembly elections but dropped it for the first time in the 2015 polls.