There’s an old Turkish proverb “Two captains will sink the ship”.
And that is precisely what is happening with Delhi at the moment.
Until 1991, Delhi was a Union Territory, with administrative powers and responsibilities rested with a Lieutenant Governor, a representative of government of India.
Since 1992, Delhi, or rather the broader National Capital Territory , has got a special status – created by an amendment to the Constitution of India. As a result, though it still has an LG, it now also has its own Legislative Assembly comprising members chosen by the people through elections. It also has a Council of Ministers and a Chief Minister.
The amendment, as well as a set of rules called the “Transaction of Business of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993”, attempt to define the roles and responsibilities of Delhi administration, particularly with regard to terms of engagement between the government of India and the NCT government.
But successive CMs in the past expressed their displeasure at this arrangement. Due to the limitations, the elected members have always felt the heat from their electorate, who care less whether they have limited or no authority at all in several matters affecting them.
Chances of conflict are likely to be minimum if the same party is in power in both the centre and state. If however, they are ruled by different parties, it creates unnecessary conflicts particularly in the case of Delhi, which is both a union territory and a state. Those who suffer the most in this process are the ordinary citizens, who are only interested in results and couldn’t care much about the politics involved.
So until now, for 23 years, Delhi has been functioning with this peculiar arrangement. Whether the elected governments liked it or not, whether citizens liked it or not, this was the Delhi they got. At least citizens could now vote for a local government – something they could not do before 1992. And with the explosive growth in Delhi’s population (16.3 million according to 2011 census and has more population than Himachal Pradesh), this seemed to be one way to let citizens have their say in choosing their representatives for good governance.
Earlier this year we saw the rise of Aam Aadmi Party, which won a historic mandate by winning 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi assembly. The party led by Arvind Kejriwal made several commitments to the Delhi voters. And while AAP appears determined to fulfill those promises, it is apparent that the central government is creating hurdles in their way of providing good governance.
AAP is therefore demanding full statehood as a solution to empower an elected government to deliver to its constituents. Unlike other parties, AAP is not likely to accept the status quo quietly.
They will push for full statehood and considering the BJP had also endorsed this for Delhi before the elections, in theory AAP should be having their support. The reality, however, may be different though.
In any case, I think this is an opportunity to set Delhi’s structure right, once and for all. The 23 years of co-existence has masked the structural issues of Delhi.
If full statehood isn’t seen as the right solution, I would throw in the possibility of reverting to Delhi as a Union Territory. This might seem regressive to many – and in some senses, it is – but it is a far more honest structure than the current farce and contraption. It will mean disenfranchisement for Delhi’s millions but that’s the price they then pay.
So, we either we have full statehood with a government, which has powers without any exclusion or no statehood, with Delhi returning to pre- 1992 status. The government of India then would have full accountability, and of course, authority.
Lastly, we need to keep this apolitical. This isn’t about a political party – AAP or the BJP or the Congress. This is about Delhi and its people.
The people should ALWAYS be the first reason to change a system or structure. Ostensibly, 1992 was also done with the people of Delhi in mind. After 23 years, the flaws are there for all to see. It is time now to address this, once and for all. Because, Delhi deserves better.
NOTE: Views expressed are the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter does not endorse any of the views, facts, incidents mentioned in this piece.