Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Wednesday released a draft bill demanding full statehood for Delhi and drew inspiration from unusual sources to back his claim: statements made by rival political parties.
Kejriwal read out former chief minister and BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana’s take on the issue: “The Delhi government is seen as being dependent on the Centre… in fact, it is not just the matter of one government but of many governments…”.
The chief minister pointed out that the demand for full statehood had been mentioned in the election manifestos of both the Congress and the BJP. He also quoted Kiren Rijiju, minister of state in the Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as BJP leaders Vijay Goel and V K Malhotra.
“Full statehood for Delhi was the topmost agenda in BJP’s election manifestos in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. The Congress had made the same demand,” said the chief minister, as he held up old manifestos of both parties.
Citing an earlier report by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, Kejriwal said in 1998, the BJP had prepared a draft bill proposing full statehood for Delhi, except in areas that fall under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).
The Delhi State Bill was presented in Parliament in August 2003 by then deputy prime minister L K Advani and referred to the Standing Committee, he said.
“The bill lapsed at the end of the Lok Sabha term,” he said.
On the AAP government’s draft Bill, Kejriwal said public consultations as well as all-party meetings will be held to seek suggestions from all quarters.
The government has also advocated the creation of a separate cadre of officials for Delhi.
Kejriwal said he will write letters and also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to garner support for the draft bill.
However, the BJP claimed that Kejriwal was “raking up” the demand for full statehood to divert attention from AAP’s “poor performance” in the civic bypolls. “We have understood that under a changed federal structure, the demand of full statehood is not an option… this is an attempt by Kejriwal to divert attention from the AAP’s failure in bypolls. Right now, Delhi is receiving all the support it can get from the Centre,” said Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken seemed to agree with the BJP leader, saying, “Arvind Kejriwal always raises the issue of statehood to divert attention from his failures. This time it is the dismal performance in the MCD bypolls… However, we would also like to ask the people of Delhi to indicate whether they still want Delhi to be the national capital, because full statehood and national capital cannot co-exist.”