Delhi: Good as a union territory or better as a state?

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New Delhi, March 22: Delhi, the national capital with the status of a union territory and with a legislature of its own, has been a hot topic of debate on whether it should be elevated to a full-fledged state.

The demand from various quarters for it to be made a full-fledged state got stronger after the infamous December 16, 2012, gang-rape, with many demanding that the control of the Delhi Police, which is with the union home ministry, be handed over to the city government.

Representational image

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, during his earlier 49-day stint, had even staged a protest to demand control over the police, arguing this would help provide better security to the people.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, in the run-up to the February assembly elections, promised that his party would strive hard to ensure full statehood for Delhi. He even met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu right after his party secured an absolute majority, asking them to prepare the way to make Delhi a full-fledged state.

There are, however, voices opposing the idea, saying it could create problems as the "clash of interest" of two power centres in the capital could lead to difficulties.

Constitutional expert and well-known lawyer Ram Jethmalani said that Delhi is "far better" as a union territory than being a full-fledged state. "What purpose would full statehood to Delhi serve? I don't see the point," he said while speaking to IANS, adding that it has many important offices, businesses and other establishments that can't be given to a state government.

"If this is done, there would be a clash of interest...How would you run it?"

K.T.S. Tulsi, another constitutional expert and eminent lawyer, agreed, saying that in case Delhi is given full statehood, there would be a clash between the two governments and this would not be in the country's overall interests.

"There could be many ugly situations in case you have two power centres at one place," Tulsi told reporters.

"There have been many instances of centre-state clashes on one or the other issue and you cannot afford this in the national capital," Tulsi added.

Sheila Dikshit of the Congress, who has the distinction of ruling the city for three consecutive five-year terms, also saw problems in granting Delhi full statehood.

"Statehood is not possible as it is the national capital," Dikshit said.

But there are others who think full statehood would be good for Delhi and give it "good governance".

With regard to security of central government offices, they said this could be left under the centre's control.

Unlike other states, where policing and public order come under an elected, publicly accountable state government, the Delhi Police reports to the union home ministry, via a lieutenant governor, a central appointee.

The point that in the national capital, a force run by an elected government cannot be trusted to keep its hordes of VIPs safe is not true as the VIPs are anyway guarded by paramilitary forces like the Special Protection Group (SPG), National Security Guard (NSG), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), an analyst pointed out.

K.K. Venugopal, a leading lawyer, found "nothing wrong" in granting Delhi full statehood.

"It's a political issue and has to be decided by the political leaders. There is nothing wrong in people making a demand for full statehood for Delhi," Venugopal told IANS, adding: "Nothing can prevent Delhi from becoming a full-fledged state. It's just that the people's representatives have to take a call in this regard."

On Delhi becoming a dual power centre in case it gets full statehood, Venugopal said that won't affect anything. "I see no disadvantage in Delhi becoming a full-fledged state. There would only be advantages in case it gets the desired status," he said.

T.K. Viswanathan, a former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, said there is no legal hurdle for granting full statehood as parliament has the related powers, but whether it would be done remains to be seen.

"It can be done any time but whether it would be done is doubtful," Viswanathan said.

The BJP, which first raised the issue of full statehood for Delhi in 1993 and then in 2003 with senior party leader L.K. Advani making a strong pitch for it and finally during the 2013 Delhi assembly elections, did not even mention the issue in its "vision document" ahead of the February 7 assembly elections.

"Issues like these need greater discussion and this particular one would require a long procedure," BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said.

He said the BJP has been talking about it but the issue needs to be discussed in detail with all stakeholders before arriving at any conclusion.

Delhi and Puducherry are the only two union territories that have elected assemblies. In the seventh schedule of the constitution, Delhi is defined as the National Capital Territory of India or NCT-Delhi.

IANS

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