Explained: Full mandate in a half state

Delhi and Puducherry are seen as Union Territories with Assemblies, and are called ‘half-states’ even though the term does not technically exist.

Written by Seema Chishti | Updated: February 12, 2015 1:24 am

What powers do states have?

Article 246 lays down a three-fold distribution of legislative powers. Subjects in the Union List are those on which only the Union can make laws. The State list includes subjects on which state legislatures alone can legislate. The third list gives Concurrent powers to both, but in case of disagreement, the Union prevails. ‘Full’ states have control over a range of critical areas, such as land, public order and police, health and education.

What is a ‘half-state’?

Delhi and Puducherry are seen as Union Territories with Assemblies, and are called ‘half-states’ even though the term does not technically exist. These UTs with Assemblies do not have some crucial powers of ‘full’ states.

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What can’t Delhi do that a ‘full’ state can?

Most importantly, the 69th Amendment Act passed in 1991 — whose Articles 239AA and 239AB provided for a Legislative Assembly and Council of Ministers for the UT of Delhi — kept land, police and public order out of the control of the government of the state. Traffic Police and Licensing too are out. The government cannot take a foreign loan or raise money from the market. And the share of taxes apportioned to Delhi is lower as police and pensions are seen as not being there.

How can this situation change?

To give the Delhi government remit over land, public order and the police, a constitutional amendment is necessary.

So does the Delhi government have zero control over police?

Interestingly, the Chief Secretary of Delhi, who is appointed by the Delhi government, plays the role of a bridge between the Centre and Delhi, as s/he is involved in writing the Confidential Reports of senior police officers. This gives the Chief Secretary some sort of clout with them. Police officers usually come to meetings where their assistance is sought. Also, there is a Monitoring Committee under the Lieutenant Governor, which meets every 15 days to discuss matters of concern or law and order in the state. These are attended by the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary of the Government of Delhi.

What about land matters?

Land acquisition files come to the Chief Secretary, but the Delhi Development Authority files do not go to the Chief Minister. The L-G, who is appointed by the central government, is the chairperson of DDA.

Do all Bills need the L-G’s consent prior to tabling?

This was a major issue during Arvind Kejriwal’s 49-day government. The jury is still out on whether the L-G’s consent is required to table each law. But certainly, all Bills cleared by the Delhi Assembly need the Centre’s nod. The Assembly cannot pass a law that is in contravention to the Centre’s law, and sometimes assent may be required twice, as in the matter of the Lokpal Bill. Even under Sheila Dikshit, whose own party was in power at the Centre for 10 years of her rule and she herself had considerable heft with the Centre, it required a lot of pushing, cajoling, negotiating and persuading to do things. It would now seem logical that while the AAP’s spectacular majority might allow it to pass Bills at will, their becoming law would depend on the central government’s political calculations.

How will not having land and police hurt AAP?

Many of its promises cannot be fulfilled without having control over these. Women’s security will need the police, and new schools and housing for the poor, land. The Centre would have to be involved, and it will want to share credit. Kejriwal’s attempt to lower the volume of anti-BJP rhetoric is in large measure due to this need to keep the peace with the Centre. Also, the three MCDs are BJP-controlled, and managing that relationship is important for the Delhi government, which occupies the middle tier.

So what can the Delhi government actually do?

It has the Jal Board, Power, Transport, PWD, Health (minus health and sanitation, which is with MCD), and Education (minus some primary schools). The scale of the mandate will be helpful — at least in the beginning, even a strong BJP at the Centre would be wary of being seen as obstructing the ‘will’ of so many Delhiites.

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