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Statehood would solve many of Delhi’s problems

It is tempting to look away or to take sides. But a concern for Delhi’s future requires us to judge the situation and think of a way out.

analysis Updated: Jun 19, 2018 19:35 IST
lieutenant governor,chief minister,Arvind Kejriwal
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Satyendra Kumar Jain and Gopal Rai during a sit-in protest at Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s residence, in New Delhi on Sunday, June 16, 2018. (PTI Photo/ Twitter) (PTI6_16_2018_000209B)(PTI)

The political circus going on in Delhi has all the elements of a democratic nightmare: constitutional functionaries engineering a deadlock in the midst of an environmental emergency and water shortage; more than one centre of power, each more keen to play opposition than to govern; and unbridled political showmanship with complete disregard for people and their well being. Faced with this, it is tempting to look away or to take sides. But a concern for Delhi’s future requires us to judge the situation and think of a way out.

First things first. Delhi deserves full statehood. The Central government should have special powers over the NDMC area that houses Lutyens’ Delhi and the diplomatic area as well as the Delhi Cantonment area. But there is simply no justification for the rest of Delhi not being governed by a popularly elected government, just like any other state. The hypocrisy of the Congress and the BJP on the issue of full statehood is responsible for creating a diarchy in Delhi that is currently being exploited to the full.

Second, there cannot be two opinions about the role of the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi in dealing with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. Far from playing the role of a quiet friend (and a guide and guardian, in the case of the National Capital Territory) of the elected government, the LG’s office has indulged in delays, disruption and sabotage of the work of elected government and witch hunt of its functionaries.

Third, it is quite clear that the ongoing protest by the Indian Administrative Service officers could not have gone on the way it has without a nod and a wink from the Central government.

Yet these three facts do not give us the full picture. The fourth fact is that the current protest by the AAP is designed to cover up an assault on the top civil servant in the presence of the chief minister himself. Although the formal hearing is yet to begin, it is a classic case of the guilty playing the victim.

Fifth, and worse, the current deadlock is being used to distract from a governance failure at multiple levels. The state government that came to power riding an unprecedented wave of popular hope has turned out to be utterly inept at governance, with no knowledge of the grammar of governance or even the constitutional provisions. No wonder, with the sole exception of an improvement in government school infrastructure, this government has little to show by way of any tangible outcome, even where there was no interference by the LG. The BJP is using this crisis to cover up ​shockingly poor municipal governance.

Sixth, the AAP government has no desire to resolve the tangle; instead it wants the deadlock to continue and use it as an election shield. The party that came to challenge the disease of body politic is by now not only afflicted by the same disease, and wants to use this crisis to gain entry into an anti-BJP alliance.

Here is what needs to be done immediately to resolve the crisis. One, the CM should offer an honest apology to the chief secretary and other civil servants for what his colleagues have done. With so many apologies under his belt, that should not have been a problem.

Since he hasn’t​,​ in view of larger public interest, the​ IAS officers should accept his latest appeal, which is an implicit apology, ​and a withdrawal of his earlier demand for punishment to officers.

Two, like all other state governments, the elected government should get to choose the officers it wishes to work with. The existing constitutional provisions for the NCT government do not come in the way of this right. Three, the central and the state government should request the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court to deliver its verdict, now pending for six months. That should clarify the division of powers for the state and the central government at least for the remaining tenure of the AAP government. And finally, Parliament should begin a discussion on granting a near-full statehood for National Capital Territory of Delhi by forming a Joint Committee to disentangle the messy administrative divisions. These steps may not guarantee good governance, but these would leave the ruling parties of Delhi with no excuses when they face elections.​

Yogendra Yadav is President, Swaraj India

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jun 18, 2018 18:28 IST