Kejri Referendum for Delhi

By :  Allabaksh

His demand for holding a referendum on statehood for the national capital looks nothing but a part of the never-ending war that the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has launched against Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. He must be aware that there is absolutely no chance of a referendum in Delhi because the Constitution has no provision for it. He also ought to realise that Delhi will not automatically become a better city merely by taking over the control of the police, perhaps the main reason for the referendum demand. Moreover, he is wrong if he seeks justification for his referendum demand from what happened in Britain a few days ago.

But consider for a moment that a referendum is ordered in Delhi. Similar demands will crop up from all over the country, putting at risk the unity of the country which is already under strain with the rise of ‘nationalist’ forces. And how will be the people of Jammu and Kashmir denied the referendum that was supposed to have taken place nearly 60 years ago?

Kejriwal does not appear to be different from other politicians in position of power and authority who shoot their mouth off without any thought. They look for immediate political gain regardless of the harm that may come in the long term. Twitter has become the easiest gun for such politicians ever eager to take pot-shot at their opponents. Being the chief minister without holding any portfolio gives him more time than any other chief minister to indulge in his favourite pastime of shadow boxing.

His almost daily war with the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the central government will only make more people believe that he is looking for scapegoats or targets to deflect attention from poor governance in Delhi. By floating the idea of referendum he hopes to ignite a debate on statehood but the issue does not touch the heart of most people in Delhi.

Kejriwal came to power on the promise that he would empower the people—a laudable thought. He may have initiated some steps in that direction. But he would have also noted that he has not been able to arouse much interest among the people of Delhi over his daily spat with the central government—or for a referendum.

The indifference of the very people who had voted for him so overwhelmingly shows that they have begun to doubt the efficacy of his brand of politics. It indicates that Kejriwal, the Pied Piper, no longer exists. That should worry him as he prepares to invade Punjab. He may have to watch his steps and be more careful in what he says.

Politicians in Delhi have been demanding full statehood for the capital for many years, but only when they are not in power. As members of the ruling party, Delhi politicians do a U-turn by going back on their demand for ‘full statehood’ for Delhi. There may many good reasons for supporting and opposing the demand to elevate the status of Delhi, described at present as a ‘half-state’, but one suspects that primarily it is the politicians’ own hypocrisy on the issue that has kept the issue hanging for so long.

If Delhi is compared to the capitals of other states of India, it might be considered a better city to live in than most. But that does not amount to saying much; the capital has to be ‘the best’ which Delhi clearly is not. Delegating more or less powers to the rulers of a state—or a ‘half-state’—carries no guarantee of ‘good governance’ that can transform a city and its quality of life.

Many of the major problems of Delhi are ascribed to the multiplication of agencies in the capital and politicians working at cross purposes—what one disposes the other must demolish as a result of which nothing much gets done ultimately. With the monsoon reaching the door of Delhi, it will be evident to all the 13 million or so people in the capital how poorly they are governed by their civic bodies as well as the Kejriwal-run administration: roads overflowing with slush, choked drains, dislocation and breakdown of public transport system, chaos on the roads, spreading epidemics and so on. And we are not even talking about the perennial ‘bijli-paani’ (electricity, water) problems.

The civic bodies and the Delhi administration will blame each other and neither will own up the responsibility for the deplorable state of affairs. Here it might be useful to remember that the blame game is not affected even when the same party rules in Delhi and the centre. How will a referendum then change the situation?

Bringing police under the control of the Delhi administration might give more clout to the state administration but it will not remove the ugly tag attached to the name of the national capital. The crime rate, including rapes, will not come down by any significant margin if it is the Delhi administration, not the home ministry, which gives orders to Delhi Police.

From Kejriwal’s point of view it can, of course, be seen why he wants to control the law and order machinery in the capital. Today it is the central government which gets away by arresting and initiating cases against members and leaders of the Aam Admi Party, once the police department comes under AAP, the ruling party at the centre will get a taste of its medicine.

The ‘emergency’ that Kejriwal accuses the Modi government of imposing in Delhi will not disappear when two bitter rivals are in power in the ‘half-state’ and the central government. Kejriwal looks as capable as Modi of imposing ‘emergency’ because both of them have demonstrated their dislike for criticism and dissent. Even before he became the prime minister, Narendra Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, had built this reputation of being contemptuous of his detractors whom he neither forgets nor forgives.

Kejriwal cannot claim to belong to a different league if some of the comrades who were with him during his first foray into politics are to be believed. Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, the ‘intellectual’ faces of Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party when it was formed after snapping ties with Anna Hazare-led movement, India against Corruption, are to be believed. There have been a few more ‘desertions’ from the Aam Admi Party since then, all alleging that it is a party where only one man’s opinion matters. The referendum that he demands will not seek people’s opinion on how to deal with a one-man rule. (Syndicate Features)

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