New Delhi The next Lok Sabha elections in the Capital will be fought on the issue of getting Delhi full statehood, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday, accusing the Centre of trying to crush the democratic rights of the people and destabilising opposition parties.
Speaking in the Delhi assembly, Kejriwal attacked a controversial new law that gave the Centre control over Delhi’s bureaucracy, exuded confidence that the Supreme Court would overturn it, and said the Centre was out to topple non-BJP governments across India using federal agencies.
“I strongly feel that in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP will lose all seven seats in Delhi, and this election will be fought on the issue of getting Delhi full statehood,” Kejriwal said. The BJP holds all seven Lok Sabha seats in the Capital. Though Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress are both part of the Opposition INDIA grouping, it is unclear whether they will fight in alliance.
AAP minister Atishi hit out at the BJP, saying that the party forgot its promise of full statehood after the Kejriwal-led government was elected in 2015.
In response, Delhi BJP leader Vijender Gupta accused the AAP government of spreading “anarchy in the national capital.”
“BJP did promise full statehood till 2014 but when AAP came to power and showed its anarchist character everyone was of the firm view that in case Delhi gets full statehood and AAP is in power they may mar governance and spread anarchy in the national capital. Arvind Kejriwal who had threatened to disrupt the Republic Day parade, went to meet the LG and sat on a dharna inside his office for nine days cannot be trusted with full statehood in the Capital. AAP made full statehood the main issue in 2019, but people did not show much interest and defeated AAP on all seats. AAP does not have any worthwhile work to which it can use to contest the LS polls, that is why Kejriwal is trying to make full statehood an issue,” Gupta said.
Full statehood has been a core political demand in the Capital, demanded at various times by the BJP, Congress and the AAP. In the aftermath of the Centre’s controversial decision to effectively bypass a Supreme Court verdict on Delhi’s bureaucracy and assume control of the city’s services, the AAP has started raising the demand again. Full statehood, the argument goes, will not only accord more powers to the state government (which currently has no say over land, police, public order and services) but also possibly expand Delhi’s share in central taxes (full states get more money compared to Union territories).
“In every election, the BJP promised to get Delhi full statehood, they even fought for this. What happened after 2014 that the BJP forgot their full statehood promise? The landslide victory of Arvind Kejriwal in the 2015 assembly election made them drop the idea of full statehood for Delhi,” state minister Atishi said inside the House.
But full statehood is also a complex demand, and will require a constitutional amendment. In 2019, the AAP had included full statehood in its poll manifesto but ended up third in five of the Capital’s seven Lok Sabha seats.
Leader of Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri dismissed Kejriwal’s suggestion and said BR Ambedkar had once said that full statehood should not be granted to Delhi; and emphasised that there should not be two governments in the Capital.
“The architect of the Constitution, Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar, had once spoken about not granting full statehood to Delhi and had emphasized that there should not be two governments in the capital. He had advocated for keeping Delhi as a centrally administered territory,” Bidhuri said in a statement.
During his speech, Kejriwal also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and alleged that the BJP crushed the democratic rights of the people of Delhi. The CM said that the Centre weaponised bureaucrats against the city’s elected government and shunted out good officers while retaining those who stalled work.
“They are out to topple non-BJP governments using either money or misusing ED (Enforcement Directorate) or CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation)… they used both weapons in Delhi but failed,” Kejriwal said.
“Modi is riding a new chariot driven by three horses — ED, CBI, and money,” he added.
Kejriwal exuded confidence that the Supreme Court will strike down the new law, noting that the Constitution bench judgment earlier this year had ruled that the elected government was in charge of the bureaucracy, except in matters related to police, public order, and land. “I assure the people of Delhi that I will get back your rights from the Supreme Court, and we will not let the work of Delhi stop under any circumstances even though the speed slows down,” Kejriwal said.
Kejriwal also questioned the National Capital Civil Services Authority (NCCSA), which is chaired by the CM and has two senior bureaucrats as members. The final decision on the bureaucracy rests with the lieutenant governor, who reports to the Union home ministry.
“Democracy has many models including Westminster model, presidential model, parliamentary model… I was wondering which model NCCSA falls under… this is Sanghi (RSS) model of democracy,” Kejriwal said.
“The victory chariot of Modi was stopped in Delhi. Modi took an oath to finish the AAP… but God had different plans. God made the AAP the third-largest party after the BJP and the Congress in just nine years,” Kejriwal said.
He said despite the Centre stopping the Delhi government’s work, the AAP managed to transform schools and hospitals, and provide free electricity and bus ride. “Earlier Delhi was infamous for scams, now it is famous for zero electricity bills, good schools… If there was a Nobel prize for working the most, the people of Delhi would have got it,” Kejriwal said.
Bidhuri, who was not present in the House when Kejriwal spoke, said later that the AAP government was opposed to the new law because it was neck deep in corruption.
“After the Supreme Court gave control over bureaucrats to the Delhi government, the Delhi government attempted to misuse the officers to cover up the cases of their corruption… It forced the central government to first issue ordinance and then enact laws to protect Delhi from corruption,” Bidhuri said.
AAP MLA Sanjeev Jha termed the new services law undemocratic, unconstitutional, and black law.
Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said the new services law was unconstitutional. “The central government can make laws but they should be within the basic principles of the Constitution,” he said.