The average Indian has been bamboozled by the arguments of Kejriwal seeking full state-hood for Delhi besides full powers over Delhi Police and wonders why it can’t be done.
Kejriwal has some persuasive arguments in his favour, primary among them being his need to weed out corruption from Delhi through an Anti Corruption Bureau with police powers controlled by him.
Before we examine the issue, let us visit a news item of Press Trust of India (PTI) dated February 12, 2014. This news relates to Kejriwal’s earlier 49 day stint as Chief Minister of Delhi. “Delhi Government on Tuesday ordered filing of criminal cases against Union minister Veerappa Moily, former minister Murli Deora, Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani and others following complaints of irregularities in pricing of natural gas in KG basin…. …”I am writing to Prime Minister and the Oil Minister to keep the decision in abeyance pending the probe. I will also request PM to direct all ministries to cooperate with the probe,” Kejriwal said. …. The Chief Minister did not answer when asked whether Delhi Government has jurisdiction to probe the matter.”
The average Kejriwal supporter sees in this a wonderful example of policing. But have they wondered how it is an ill-conceived illegal action. Breaking down the events sequentially, and looking at them one by one, it is revealed that: a) the Government of India took a decision regarding India as a whole, b) one of the State Governments did not agree with the decision and smelled a corruption rat, c) since the State happened to be Delhi, and the offices of Government of India are in Delhi, the Chief Minister of the state felt he had a jurisdiction over the decisions of the Government of India. d) the State Government of Delhi over-ruled the Central Government, issued FIRs against the Central Government and asked the Government of Delhi to register an FIR against ministers of Government of India for policy actions that dealt with India as a whole, e) the State Chief Minister even requested the Prime Minister ‘to keep the decision in abeyance pending the probe (Delhi Government probe)’ .
The High Court of Delhi in its wisdom quashed the FIR and termed it as illegal.
A recent news item by PTI, New Delhi, Jul 17, 2015, states that “Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday attacked the Centre saying it tried to wrest control over the capital’s Anti-Corruption Branch’s (ACB) fearing filing of an FIR against a Union Cabinet Minister, but asserted that there was no such move”.
We can see that the central government fears the state government of Delhi implicating ministers of Government of India, in cases related to their decisions in office. This scenario is against the basic structure of our centrally governed federal structure.
Internationally, the concept of the central or federal government exercising complete control over the country’s capital is the norm. Across the world, in federal models of government, no state or territory should have any political or economic advantage relative to the others because of the national capital lying within its borders. A few examples can suffice in illustrating the issue:
- USA has Washington D.C as a Federal District under the direct control of the Federal Government of USA and is not part of any state and is run by an elected mayor and city council. Congress retains ultimate authority over the District and has the right to review the local budget and taxes, overturn laws passed by the city council, and terminate home rule. The governance of the district is a sort of a municipal government.
- The Capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is neither part of Buenos Aires Province nor the Province’s capital; rather, it is an autonomous district. Infact Argentina federalized Buenos Aires in 1880 after decades of political infighting after which Buenos Aires was removed from Buenos Aires Province.
- Brazil’s capital Brasilia is part of a federally controlled district. Infact, Brazil earlier had Rio De Janeiro as its capital which was then a federally controlled district and was allowed to become a state only after after the capital was shifted to Brasilia.
- In Malaysia, the term Federal Territory (Malay: Wilayah Persekutuan) is used for the three territories governed directly by the federal government, namely Kuala Lumpur (national capital), Putrajaya (federal government administrative centre) and Labuan (international offshore financial centre). The capital does not have a separate provincial government.
- The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is enclaved within the state of New South Wales. Its only city is Canberra, the capital of Australia. The ACT has internal self-government, but Australia’s Constitution does not afford the territory government the full legislative independence provided to other Australian states.
The Constituent Assembly of India were a bunch of wise people when they envisaged New Delhi as a Union Territory under direct rule of the Central Government through a Lieutenant Governor. This effectively insulated Government of India from the whims and fancies of a regional satrap in Delhi. The 69th Amendment of the Constitution converted the ‘Union Territory of Delhi’ to the ‘National Capital Territory of Delhi’ and gave it some autonomy on some issues. Still, the decision makers of that amendment were wise enough not to give full state-hood to Delhi.
Kejriwal is an intelligent man. My engineer class-mates never fail to remind me that he is an Engineer. So, in his intelligence I assume that he knows what he is doing and that he can’t be foolish enough not to know the full implications of his demand.
Having adequately displayed his intentions and his capacity to register FIRs against Central Government Ministers, if given the power over his police akin to that of other state governments, we can extrapolate the actions of Kejriwal to a scenario where Delhi is a full state and the Chief Minister of Delhi differs with the Central Government on a major issue.
A future news item could well be : ‘The Chief Minister of Delhi today ordered the arrest of the Prime Minister of India on corruption charges. Based on an internal ACB-Delhi assessment of the excise rates in the recent budget, it was assessed that the excise rates were tweaked to benefit a few major industrialists. Arrest warrants were rapidly issued in compliance to the recommendations of the ACB and a Delhi Police battalion armed with state of the art arms surrounded the North Block and arrested the Home Minister and Prime Minister of India and put them all in Jail. The Chief Minister of Delhi has declared curfew in Delhi and has issued shoot a sight orders in New Delhi. All offices of the Central Government have been closed till further notice. ’
It is possible, make no mistake! If the Chief Minister of Delhi is provided full power over his Police akin to that of other state governments, this is what is possible. The demand of Kejriwal to assume power over the Central Government can be seen at its best case scenario as an attempt to monitor and brow-beat the Central Government and at its worst case scenario as an attempted coup.
Full statehood to Delhi is a sure recipe for disaster.