The politics of full statehood for Delhi
New Delhi, Feb 23: As soon as an election is around the corner, full statehood for Delhi (National Capital Territory of Delhi) becomes a lucrative promise for the political parties.
As the Lok Sabha elections are approaching, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has promised that if Delhi voters elect the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates on all the seven Parliamentary seats of Delhi then he will ensure that Delhi gets full statehood status within two years.
He has exhorted people not to vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi but for full statehood.
The AAP also plans to launch a door-to-door campaign on the issue to "tell people how Prime Minister Modi deceived them on this issue".
However, the issue of full statehood has been more or less an 'all weather excuse' for Kejriwal since he formed the government in February 2015 with a surprising number of 67 MLAs. So, one can understand his 'love' for it.
Nobody will believe that before fighting for Delhi Assembly elections he or his party didn't know about the rights of the elected Delhi government and its problems compared to the other state governments.
Constitutionally all the powers are with the Delhi government, except law & order, land and services, which are with the Union government.
In fact, Kejriwal is not new in the full statehood politics. All the political parties have batted for it when they were seeking votes for the Lok Sabha or the Delhi Assembly. However, every party puts the issue on the slow burner after assuming power.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the oldest player in the politics of full statehood.
Late BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana was the most vocal leader pushing for Delhi's full statehood in 1987.
Another senior BJP leader late Sahib Singh Verma headed a committee that prepared a draft Bill on full Statehood in 1998.
Senior BJP leader and then Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani had presented the Delhi Statehood Bill in the Parliament, which was referred to a standing committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee. The Bill lapsed.
It had the provision of granting full statehood to the entire National Capital Territory except for police and public order with the Central Government.
For the first time, the BJP didn't mention full statehood in its election manifesto for 2015 Delhi Assembly polls.
However, the BJP had promised it in its Delhi-specific manifesto for the 2014 general elections. But, the tenure of Modi government has come to an end and that promise is not fulfilled.
Kejriwal plans to use all the previous manifestos of the BJP in his party's door-to-door campaign against Prime Minister Modi.
An official statement of his party says, "AAP will take to the people all the manifestos of BJP released in every previous election including the latest Delhi's specific manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP had promised statehood for Delhi, if it was voted to power. Delhi voters gave them all seven Lok Sabha seats in 2014 only to be deceived by the Modi-Shah duo which does not like Delhi at all."
Interestingly, he doesn't plan to include the Congress in the campaign, which ruled the country for the maximum period, and Delhi for 15 years.
In 1947, the newly constituted Pattabhi Sitaramayya Committee had recommended granting Delhi status of a state. But, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as the chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution, first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other members of the committee had outrightly rejected the idea of even partial statehood to Delhi. They were of the opinion that the country's capital should not be handed over to a local government.
This time the Congress is fighting the Delhi Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who is now Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC).
During her 15-year-rule, Dikshit too raked up full statehood issue whenever it suited her government.
However, this time Dikshit has raised doubts over the timing of Kejriwal's demand.
While speaking to First Post, Sheila Dikshit, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief, on Wednesday questioned the timing of the demand made by Kejriwal.
"Why has the issue been raised now when there is no Parliament session scheduled and the present government at the Centre is also about to end its term?" asked Dikshit.
In fact, the Congress too has used full statehood for votes in the past
For example, Congress took the pro-statehood stand in 2014 Lok Sabha and 2015 Delhi Assembly elections.
Though the Congress has not officially cleared its stance on the issue, but Kejriwal will definitely use it despite realising that it will not be easy for any Union government, including AAP's, to grant full statehood to Delhi government because of various reasons, like presence of the President, Prime Minister, Union Ministers, diplomatic dignitaries in Delhi.
He also knows that his seven MPs cannot get full statehood to Delhi like the BJP couldn't do.
Many of the AAP's voters live in Delhi's unauthorised colonies and they can be misguided that absence of full statehood status is behind all of their miseries. Therefore, he intends to use it not to win but to dent the BJP to some extent.