In yet another bid to challenge the Centre and extend the political tug of war, the AAP government wants the residents of Delhi to decide if the national capital should be granted the status of a state.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal wants a referendum on the issue of statehood for Delhi 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.
Hindustan Times conducted an online poll asking readers to give their opinion on what they think about the government's plans for a referendum. And, a majority of them thought it will be good for Delhi.
While the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have termed the Aam Aadmi Party government's plan to hold a referendum as dangerous and unconstitutional, law minister Kapil Mishra has even threatened a stir in support of the demand.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken even accused Kejriwal of fooling the people.
"The idea of a referendum as proposed by Kejriwal is a dangerous one and this is not only unconstitutional, but it is anti-national as well," said Maken.
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," said Upadhyay.
In the HT poll, out of the 4,671 readers who responded till 11am on Tuesday, an overwhelming 66.78% respondents agreed with Kejriwal's plans and think the move will fix several administrative and governance issues.
On the other hand, 29.76% respondents think otherwise. They voted to say that statehood is not a complete solution and that Delhi's problems stem from the Centre's interference. The rest or 3.46% said since they don't live in Delhi they do not have an opinion.
Delhi as a union territory has a unique status in the country with a legislative assembly that limits the power of the government. Law and order, including police, land and civic bodies are controlled by the Union government. And the five-month-old AAP government and the Centre have been locked in an ugly turf war over matters ranging from transfers and appointments of bureaucrats to policing.
"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.
While statehood for Delhi was part of the AAP's manifesto, the BJP that had been raising the issue for years kept mum on it ahead of the February state election.