The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year’s parliamentary elections if it ensured Delhi got statehood, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday, just before the assembly passed a resolution on an issue that has been a political hot potato for decades.
“I want to tell the BJP that if, before the 2019 elections, Delhi is granted statehood, we will make sure that each and every vote from Delhi goes in your favour. We will campaign for you. If you do not do it, then Delhi residents will put up boards saying ‘BJP leave Delhi’,” Kejriwal said, taking a jab at the BJP-led central government.
As a union territory, the capital’s administration is largely controlled by the Union government – a system that has often brought the state government and the Centre into conflict, particularly because the Delhi Police and land-related matters are not under the state’s purview.
On Monday too, Kejriwal accused Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and central investigating agencies of stalling his government’s functioning and staged a sit-in at the L-G’s residence till the time of going to print. The resolution urges the Union ministry of home affairs to table a Bill in Parliament to grant Delhi full statehood.
This is not the first time the Delhi assembly has passed a resolution. In 1988, when Sahib Singh Verma was the chief minister. A resolution was passed and a draft bill was sent to the Centre.
In his 20-minute speech, the Delhi chief minister targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reminding him of the statehood promise he made while campaigning for the 2014 general election. BJP legislator and leader of opposition Vijender Gupta said the resolution was “political brinkmanship”. “If he (Kejriwal) was serious about the issue, he should have raised it in the Parliament through his MPs which is the right forum. But, his real intent behind bringing it up on completion of three years and four months is to divert public attention from his misgovernance, incompetence and failures,” he said.
During the proceedings to pass the resolution, Gupta and his party colleagues were marshalled out while another MLA Jagdish Pradhan staged a walkout, accusing the AAP government of having failed in its promise to bring a Jan Lokpal Bill. Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said the AAP government was raking up the issue to hide its failures. According to the chief minister, Delhi pays Rs 1.3 lakh crore as taxes annually but gets only Rs 325 crore in return. “States like Odisha pay Rs 10,000 crore and get Rs 40,000 crore from the Centre. We urge the centre to give us at least 30% of what we give,” he said, adding that if Delhi got ?40,000 crore from Centre every year, every Delhi resident would have a house and a job.
Some experts argue that statehood may not be good for the national capital. “The demand for full statehood for Delhi has been carefully considered by experts for years and it will lead to major revenue losses for the state. Privileges that the citizens here enjoy will also be snatched away,” said Omesh Saigal, former Delhi chief secretary. Saigal said as a full state, Delhi would have to pay the salaries of police and other service employees, which at present are borne by the Centre.
The resolution by the Delhi government specifies that areas under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) be kept under the exclusive control of the central government. “Not just the NDMC areas, they will also have to exclude the area around the Red Fort because the Prime Minister unfurls the national flag there during Republic Day and also the airport as several foreign dignitaries visit. This will be a major revenue loss for the city as 80% of Delhi government’s revenue is generated from areas such as Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk and the offices on Barakhamba Road,” Saigal said.