If all were to go as per Kejriwal’s plans, Delhiites could soon be voting in a referendum that puts a full stop to the State Vs Union Territory controversy. That such a move would be unconstitutional is obviously an irrelevant piece of information to the government of Delhi that plans to hold the referendum under the banner of “People’s will is supreme”.
Given that Delhi has a tendency to “mis-vote” and mess things up for itself, a child can guess what the results of the referendum would be. But Arvind Kejriwal is simply not aiming high enough when it comes to holding a referendum.
Why hold a referendum on statehood for Delhi, when you can easily conduct a referendum on independence for Delhi. After all, both referendums would be as illegal, and perhaps equally meaningless.
But if Delhiites were to vote for independence, it would theoretically establish Arvind Kejriwal as an equal to Narendra Modi, something that would further boost his already over-inflated ego. Delhi’s Prime Minister would then be fully entitled to mock the Prime Minister of India, ridicule him, call him names and if needed, perhaps even go to war against India to get Noida and Gurgaon included in an independent Delhi. All this could happen and nobody would tut-tut on falling standards of public discourse, the impropreity of a Chief Minister indulging in name-calling. Perhaps the world will even appreciate Arvind Kejriwal’s endless tweeting and sharing movie reviews as the emergence of new political style. All in all, #DEXIT would make life easier for Arvind Sir. The rest of India too would not miss Delhi too much. Surely, the country would become more civil, more amenable to obeying laws etc etc. But most importantly, with Arvind Sir out of the country, peace would once again prevail in India.
Coming to the point, the Denizens of Delhi have for years been duped into believing that the problems they face are on account of Delhi not being a state. AAP has been screaming this lie from the rooftops for as long as it has been in existence. The fact is that Delhi’s problems are related to the poor quality of governance and not to the administrative tangle that it finds itself in. Sheila Dixit, who was so unceremoniously booted out, could and did usher in an era of development in Delhi, flagging off the metro, constructing flyovers, improving infrastructure etc, by co-operating with the Central government in a way that benefitted Delhi. Arvind Sir, on the other hand has been able to do little more than daily accuse Modi sarkar of interference and adding impediments to his work. That having been said, the main arguments for Statehood for Delhi are as follows-
1. Large population of Delhi- Delhi is almost as populated as Haryana and more populated than many other states in the country.
2. Administrative tussle between Union and State governments- Delhi has suffered because State and Union governments have failed to get along.
3. Law and Order should be with the state government- State government would be able to better deal with crime and law and order in the city
4. Central government acts as an impediment- Delhi government should not need Central Government’s consent on all matters pertaining to Delhi.
5. Overwhelming Public support- Delhi’s citizens and all political parties have supported statehood for Delhi.
However, statehood for Delhi is fraught with several challenges-
1. Natural Resources- Delhi as a state would be dependent on other states for power, water and other resources making it unviable as a self-reliant entity.
2. Economics- State of Delhi would not be eligible for Central aid. This would result in revenues drying up, which can only be sustained by raising existing taxes and giving up subsidies.
3. Law and Order- Police authorities in various states have tended to operate unprofessionally, at the whims and fancies of political party in power. This could become a reality in Delhi too.
4. Moth-eaten Delhi- State of Delhi will need to let go of areas of Lutyens’ Delhi that house the Central government, foreign embassies, Cantonment etc. The state of Delhi will have to enter into a new agreement with the rest of Delhi under the Union government.
5. Land- Delhi does not have enough land to develop iteself. This is precisely why Gurgaon and NOIDA have flourished at Delhi’s expense.
6. Identity- Historically, states in India have been created on linguistic basis. While that precedent has more or less been broken now, Delhi does not have an identity that distinguishes it from neighbouring UP, Haryana or Rajasthan
India is not unique in the world in terms of having a national capital territory that houses a large population. From Washington DC to Beijing to Ottawa to Canberra, many nations have used the model of Federal territory that is distinct from the province surrounding it. Instead of planning to become one amongst India’s states, the government of Delhi should try to build the city into a Shanghai or a Singapore. The need of the hour is to curb Delhi’s babu culture and build a strong, centralized and corporatized administration that is willing to partner with the Union government to turn the city around. The Union government, too, on its part would have to extend autonomy to Delhi and share the local government’s vision for a vibrant Delhi. Referendum on #DEXIT might please the rabble rousers but are surely not the way ahead.