The Delhi government’s constant demand that there should be a referendum on the question of full statehood for Delhi is not convincing.
In the first place, it is in tune with the practice of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to go to the people on various issues. For example, in 2013, the party had its own referendum on the question as to whether it should form the government even without a majority in the assembly. Some in the party even asked why chief minister Arvind Kejriwal did not ask the people before resigning.
Neither the party nor Mr Kejriwal seems to be appreciative of the fact that the people of Delhi want good governance first and not any combative stance that can only come in its way. Water, power and the regularisation of colonies — the hobby horse of AAP — are just a few of the things plaguing Delhi.
But so far what has been in the foreground ever since Mr Kejriwal became CM are his fights with the lieutenant governor on matters that could have been settled over the table. By raising this issue, AAP has proved that it is still in its agitationist mode, though in a new garb.
A referendum on statehood can be troublesome from other angles also. So far there has been a case of referendum only once — in Sikkim — and that too before it became part of India. Many states have been created without a referendum and peacefully.
No referendum had been taken in states that were created following a political struggle, such as in the case of Telangana. A referendum in Delhi could create similar demands elsewhere and can bolster the case of the separatists in Kashmir.
Worse, it is also possible that parties whose leaders are facing corruption charges will be tempted to take the matter to the people, which can undermine the administrative and the judicial process. Finally, the Constitution has no provision for a referendum on statehood. In that case, if such a referendum takes place, it may not be binding.
What AAP is failing to understand is that a polity cannot function without a certain measure of agreement among the actors. While it is true the party had promised the people full statehood, it should do so on appropriate platforms.