Why residents of Delhi must support AAP

For the sake of our democracy, we must take a stand.

 |  7-minute read |   24-06-2018
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The recent sit-in agitation by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is less for the immediate reasons and more for Delhi statehood and non-Congress non-BJP federal front.

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The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is going ahead with a huge rally to demand full statehood for Delhi on July 1 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, and is going to make it its electoral plank for the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 Vidhan Sabha elections.

The AAP volunteers have also decided upon a door-to-door campaign to get one million Delhi residents to ratify the statehood demand.

The 2015 AAP manifesto promised to fight for the cause.

"Acting within the constitutional framework, our government will use its moral and political authority to push for full statehood for Delhi. This will ensure that institutions such as the DDA, MCD and Delhi Police will be accountable to the elected government of Delhi. This way land will be made available for the common man, there will be greater synchronisation and shared purpose among civic services with regard to service delivery and the law and order machinery will be accountable to the citizens," the manifesto read.

To this end, the AAP government has passed a resolution in the state Assembly calling for full statehood and passing a draft bill for the same. Kejriwal had called for a referendum on the issue. It is against this backdrop that the party is starting a campaign from July 1 ahead.

The draft bill passed by the Assembly says that Delhi being the national capital can be divided into two parts. What is commonly known as Lutyens' Delhi and is administratively governed by the NDMC Act should be under the direct control of the central government, given the sensitivities involved and the experience of national capitals world over.

This resolution also notes that the rest of Delhi can no longer be denied its full statehood right. The bill introduced by then deputy prime minister and home minister, LK Advani, in the Lok Sabha on August 18, 2003, and fully endorsed by the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, then headed by Pranab Mukherjee, has to be the guiding document.

Interestingly, 2009 and 2014 Delhi Assembly poll manifestos of Congress and BJP also included the promise of statehood on similar lines.

While the Congress continued with its promise in 2015 polls too, the BJP changed its stance in 2015.

It decided to not release a manifesto for the Delhi Assembly polls and instead released a vision document. The indecision over the statehood issue was the real reason behind the vision document. BJP leaders then said that there were 'practical difficulties' in bringing up the issue of statehood, especially when the party was in power at the Centre.

The contentious issue of providing law and order and land acquisition rights to Delhi were some of the factors that forced the BJP not to pursue the issue.

The reason for both the BJP and Congress to oppose statehood at this juncture appears to be that both these established parties have a common goal in ensuring that the AAP government fails so that these two parties could bounce back.

Fundamental constitutional questions

The cardinal questions that AAP government's continued conflict with the Centre have thrown up are fundamental to the functioning of an electoral democracy.

Does an elected government have the right to make policies and implement them? Do bureaucrats have the right to strike work just to embarrass a particular government? Most importantly, what good are elections when elected representatives are rendered powerless and held hostage by a non-elected government nominee?

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Kejriwal entered the system as an outsider - the status that enhanced his appeal among the disgruntled electorate. And his unconventional methods of protest, considered radical or anarchist by the elite, could earn him the favourable tag of an 'outsider within'.

Delhi is governed by an elected state government along with the L-G who is nominated by the Centre.

The Delhi Development Authority falls under the L-G, all land under central Urban development ministry, Delhi Police under central home ministry, services of all staff under central home ministry, Delhi Cantonment under the defence ministry, and civic affairs under municipal corporations.

This maze of multiple agencies, with overlapping authorities as well, is a natural breeding ground for misgovernance, miscommunication, and non-cooperation stalling work. The petition of the AAP government pending before the Supreme Court with regards to demarcation of rights, responsibilities and authorities of the elected state government and the nominated L-G may hopefully see some action now.

The issue needs to be settled once and for all to enforce rule of law and avoid chaos.

Response of the Opposition

This may well turn out to be a significant moment for the AAP to ramp up the Centre-state battle, transforming it into a full-fledged political and constitutional confrontation.

Interestingly, unlike the last time around during the Kejriwal dharna of the winter of 2014, this time in the summer of 2018, a plethora of regional parties, significantly SP, RJD, JDU, JDS, RLD, NCP, TMC, TDP, TRS, DMK, CPI and CPM have expressed complete support to the agitation of AAP, even though the Congress is understandably on the same side as the BJP.

Paradoxically, despite leaning towards a broad united front against the BJP, the Congress continues to treat the AAP as a political pariah.

This stems from the fact that AAP has decimated Congress to come to power, is the major challenger of Congress in Punjab, and is focusing on building its organisation bottoms-up in states where the contest is between the Congress and BJP.

But, the current stoicism of Congress would rather make it suspect in the eyes of various regional parties and is not in the interest of its 2019 plans.

From Sheila Dikshit to Kejriwal government: Some constitutional differences

Dikshit's party was in power in Delhi and at the Centre for 10 years. Also, she could have the L-Gs of her choice, and most importantly, she had not faced the May 21, 2015 notification issued by the Union ministry of home affairs, barely three months after the AAP won 67 of 70 seats in Delhi Assembly.

This MHA notification took away services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) from Delhi government - meaning all transfers and postings and the ACB were placed under the direct control of the L-G (read central government).

On August 4, 2016, the Delhi High Court interpreted this notification to rule that the L-G is the administrator of Delhi and the aid and advice of council of ministers is not binding on him.

Could those who amended the Constitution to pave the way for an elected Vidhan Sabha in Delhi through the 69th amendment in 1991 ever have imagined such a state of affairs?

This matter will finally be settled by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, where the arguments concluded on December 6, 2017, and the judgment has been reserved.

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Democracy gives the final word to the electorate

The sinister designs of the Centre through the recent non-cooperation of the IAS officers with the elected government et al, seem to be moving towards a massive anti-democratic stance.

To not let the Delhi government work. So it will not be able to deliver on its electoral promises and be voted out in the next electoral cycle.

The central government wants to make the residents of Delhi believe that the state government would not be allowed to function with AAP at its helm, and that voting for AAP is going to be what psephologists could call a wasted vote. A central government sabotaging all works of a state government, at this scale and with all possible means, is unprecedented.

However, a lot would depend on what Dilliwalas do.

Would they give in to this coercion? Would they be ready to suffer for another five years by voting the current government in? Would they uphold the ideals of a democracy that our forefathers enshrined in our Constitution? Will Delhi show the way to the entire country? Or is Delhi just another capital that favours establishment, and political and moral corruption?

If the residents of Delhi decide to vote out the AAP government, it would only prove that democracy is not just dead, but that it never really existed in essence because democracy is actually all about co-existence of competitive ideologies and strategies.

Bereft of that, it is nothing but fascism of one variety or the other.

Also read: Why BJP should keep aside its calculations for 2019 in preparing a Kashmir strategy

Writer

Ujjwal K Chowdhury Ujjwal K Chowdhury @ukcglobal

Author is currently the school head of media in Pearl Academy, and former dean of Symbiosis and Amity Universities.

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