Politics of Delhi statehood!


Politics of Delhi statehood!

Dr. Abdul Ruff

________________

Delhi state in India is not a full-fledged state and its does enjoy all privileges and rights full state do. It has been the demand of people of Delhi for years, expressed through previous Congress and BJP governments of Delhi before Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) began focusing on the subject, to obtain full statehood, but the central government, run by Congress and BJP alternatively, rejected the demand of Delhiites. Both pledged to fight for a full statehood for Delhi periodically, only to forget it thereafter.

Aam Aadmi Party , upon assuming power in Delhi, had  problems with central government  on  its rights and privileges ,has proposed to hold a referendum on whether or not Delhiites want their city to become a full-fledged state.

If Delhiites are given the right or privilege to exercise their preference by India will have a full-fledged state based not on linguistic or cultural or ethnic identity or other exclusivist principles, but on administrative convenience and efficacy. It could also lead to empowering people with the weapon of referendum for countering government policies inimical to their interests, as it has in Greece.

Both the BJP and the Congress have outrightly rejected the fresh demand by AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal for full statehood for Delhi state mainly because they want to show their anger towards Delhiites for rejecting them in the poll when AAP got almost every seat in the state, leaving just 3 seats to BJP and none to Congress, making them go annoyed. Naturally both play politics now with statehood issue, showing anger towards Delhi people.

Known for their double-speak, hypocrisy and paranoia, the BJP and the Congress, who have labeled AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal a nihilist problem, have expressed against AAP’s proposal to hold a referendum on full-fledged state. For instance, Delhi BJP chief Upadhyay described AAP’s referendum proposal as yet another evidence of Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal’s “anarchist nature.”  They argue if Delhi is made full state that would be a defeat for Indian Constitution.

In 1978, the word referendum was proposed to be incorporated into the Indian Constitution. This was courtesy then Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, who moved the Forty-fifth Amendment bill, later amended to be titled the Forty-fourth. Its statement of objectives and reasons said that certain changes in the Constitution could not be made unless approved by the people of India by a majority of votes at a referendum in which at least fifty-one per cent of the electorate participate.

Broadly, the Bill envisaged referendum for changes. These pertained to the secular and democratic character of the Constitution, abridging or abrogating of fundamental rights, impeding the conduct of free and fair election, and compromising the independence of judiciary. The proposal making referendum mandatory was to be incorporated after clause 2 of Art 368, which lays out the process of amending the Constitution. However, the clause of referendum was defeated in the upper house of parliament, Rajya Sabha, where the Janata Party didn’t have the requisite majority. It was consequently not incorporated in the Constitution, but the Forty-fourth Amendment Act retains the idea of referendum in its statement of purposes and reasons.

What the BJP forgets is that its leaders, AB Vajpayee and LK Advani, were then in the Janata Party government. As has always been the practice, the Cabinet would have approved the Amendment Bill providing for referendum before Bhushan introduced it in Parliament. Therefore, Vajpayee and Advani were as much party to the idea of referendum as any other member of the 1978 Union Cabinet.

BJP’s double speaking on referendum BJP tries to confuse the people. BJP has conveniently forgotten about its own referendum in Gujarat. PM Narendra Modi then designed and conducted a referendum during his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat. The referendum of April 2009 asked the Gujaratis to stamp ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on three related questions – did they want the money stashed in Swiss banks to be repatriated to India? Should the money funneled back be spent on the poor? Should the government initiate measures to unearth black money? Obviously, the state unit of the BJP showed tremendous enthusiasm to conduct the referendum. Ballot boxes were placed at public places – railway stations and shopping malls for instance – and autorickshaws ferried them from colony to colony. Gujarat’s referendum on black money lasted all of two days and even children were reported queuing to express their opinion.

But congress refused to question the Constitutional validity of that referendum. Now all of a sudden these two national parties, routed by Delhiites, woke up to “protect” the Constitution. The result of the referendum was remarkable but not astonishing – 98 per cent of people wanted Indian money in Swiss banks to be brought back. Modi just used the idea for parliamentary poll.

Earlier, in 2011, when the movement for carving out the state of Telangana was cleaving Andhra Pradesh, BJP state president G Kishan Reddy wanted then President Pratibha Patil to take the initiative for organizing a referendum on the contentious issue. He mooted this idea in response to the suggestion of Congress leader P Chidambaram that political parties of Andhra Pradesh should evolve a consensus on Telangana instead of making contradictory demands on the Union government.

BJP’s preference was to directly seek the opinion of people on the Telangana statehood issue, precisely what AAP wants how, rather than to have it held hostage to intense competition among political parties, each calculating what stance could have them harvest of a better crop of votes. BJP and Congress focus on anti-AAPism by disappointing the Delhiites on the issue.

It isn’t as if there is no precedence of seeking popular opinion to decide on the future of an entity, whether Union Territory or State. For instance, in December 1966, Parliament enacted the Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll) Act, outlining the process by which the status of these three places was to be determined.  On 16 Jan 1967, under the Opinion Poll Act (referendum), people voted to choose between two options – whether Goa should remain a Union Territory or merge with Maharashtra and Daman and Diu with Gujarat. The merger option had the symbol of flower; the other a pair of leaves. Goa, ultimately, voted against the merger, polling 54.20 per cent of votes and it became a state in 1987.

Though styled as Opinion Poll, it was in essence a referendum, as it asked people to choose between one of the two options. This process was adopted though Goa then had a 28-member Assembly, which was fractured on the issue of whether to retain its independent identity or merge with the neighbouring States. In the 1964 Goa election, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) had bagged 16 seats and the United Goans Party (UGP) the remaining 12. The MGP favoured merger with Maharashtra, arguing that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi and not a separate language.  By contrast, the UGP was opposed to merger with Maharashtra, claiming Goa’s culture was uniquely different from its mighty neighbor’s and Konkani was a language separate from Marathi. It also didn’t want Goa’s future to be decided in the Assembly, where the MGP would have won easily.

But from 1920 onwards, the Congress had recognised that Konkani language would be the basis of organizing state units in the country after independence. Perhaps this was why Goan Congress chief Purushottam Kakodkar’s support for referendum proved crucial. He was said to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family and it was believed his intervention, ultimately, led to the enactment of the Opinion Poll Act, which bound the Union government to accept the popular verdict of 16 Jan 1966.

The Goa opinion poll was indeed a referendum by another name. This brief history of Goa gives lie to Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken’s claims that Kejriwal’s idea of referendum is “a dangerous ploy with grave fallout.” Perhaps the Act didn’t use the nomenclature of referendum as the word had acquired an ominous echo because of the India-Pakistan joust over Kashmir where Kashmiris have been demanding a referendum to decide their future. India knows in referendum Kashmiris would opt for sovereignty against Indian will.

Delhi is a different issue all together.

The idea of referendum that the 44th amendment envisaged could have had far deeper consequences than what AAP wants – that is, to determine whether or not the people of Delhi want a full-fledged state.

It seems the BJP and the Congress are deliberately fanning fears without foundations that a referendum in Delhi could trigger these tendencies in states susceptible to separatist movements. This is of course plain paranoia. The very first article of the Constitution 1 states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”  Art 2 allows new states to be admitted into the Union. This is how Sikkim became a part of India, after, yes, a referendum was held there.

Obviously, the referendum AAP plans to hold will not have any legal sanctity and, therefore, the majority opinion thus expressed will not be binding on the Union government. AAP’s referendum, though, can mount moral, and popular, pressure on the Union to bestow on the Delhi government the powers other states enjoy, besides exposing the doublespeak of the BJP and Congress.

But for any referendum to acquire a moral edge must have a high percentage of voters’ participation and should not invite the charge of having been manipulated.  It shouldn’t be seen as a mere gimmick, as Gujarat’s referendum on black money was.  Thus, ideally, a referendum to have credibility must be supervised by the Election Commission. The Delhi Election Commission (DEC) can’t accede to the request of the Delhi government unless it has the approval of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

If central government does not give full statehood or denies referendum to decide the future of Delhi, the AAP would activate a full-blown movement to win the status of a full-fledged state for Delhi which would strengthen its national strength further.

Instead of the blockage mindset Congress-BJP duo has carved out for themselves to object to genuine cause of Delhi’s full statehood just for fun, a fair and  credible  gesture for full statehood would  help them  regain  some of if its lost votes and  prestige among Delhi voters.

Now that AAP has full mandate and Delhiites seeking full statehood, Delhi state becoming a  full-fledged state of India sooner than later is a foregone conclusion.

Politics of Delhi statehood!

Dr. Abdul Ruff

________________

Delhi state in India is not a full-fledged state and its does enjoy all privileges and rights full state do. It has been the demand of people of Delhi for years, expressed through previous Congress and BJP governments of Delhi before Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) began focusing on the subject, to obtain full statehood, but the central government, run by Congress and BJP alternatively, rejected the demand of Delhiites. Both pledged to fight for a full statehood for Delhi periodically, only to forget it thereafter.

Aam Aadmi Party , upon assuming power in Delhi, had  problems with central government  on  its rights and privileges ,has proposed to hold a referendum on whether or not Delhiites want their city to become a full-fledged state.

If Delhiites are given the right or privilege to exercise their preference by India will have a full-fledged state based not on linguistic or cultural or ethnic identity or other exclusivist principles, but on administrative convenience and efficacy. It could also lead to empowering people with the weapon of referendum for countering government policies inimical to their interests, as it has in Greece.

Both the BJP and the Congress have outrightly rejected the fresh demand by AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal for full statehood for Delhi state mainly because they want to show their anger towards Delhiites for rejecting them in the poll when AAP got almost every seat in the state, leaving just 3 seats to BJP and none to Congress, making them go annoyed. Naturally both play politics now with statehood issue, showing anger towards Delhi people.

Known for their double-speak, hypocrisy and paranoia, the BJP and the Congress, who have labeled AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal a nihilist problem, have expressed against AAP’s proposal to hold a referendum on full-fledged state. For instance, Delhi BJP chief Upadhyay described AAP’s referendum proposal as yet another evidence of Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal’s “anarchist nature.”  They argue if Delhi is made full state that would be a defeat for Indian Constitution.

In 1978, the word referendum was proposed to be incorporated into the Indian Constitution. This was courtesy then Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, who moved the Forty-fifth Amendment bill, later amended to be titled the Forty-fourth. Its statement of objectives and reasons said that certain changes in the Constitution could not be made unless approved by the people of India by a majority of votes at a referendum in which at least fifty-one per cent of the electorate participate.

Broadly, the Bill envisaged referendum for changes. These pertained to the secular and democratic character of the Constitution, abridging or abrogating of fundamental rights, impeding the conduct of free and fair election, and compromising the independence of judiciary. The proposal making referendum mandatory was to be incorporated after clause 2 of Art 368, which lays out the process of amending the Constitution. However, the clause of referendum was defeated in the upper house of parliament, Rajya Sabha, where the Janata Party didn’t have the requisite majority. It was consequently not incorporated in the Constitution, but the Forty-fourth Amendment Act retains the idea of referendum in its statement of purposes and reasons.

What the BJP forgets is that its leaders, AB Vajpayee and LK Advani, were then in the Janata Party government. As has always been the practice, the Cabinet would have approved the Amendment Bill providing for referendum before Bhushan introduced it in Parliament. Therefore, Vajpayee and Advani were as much party to the idea of referendum as any other member of the 1978 Union Cabinet.

BJP’s double speaking on referendum BJP tries to confuse the people. BJP has conveniently forgotten about its own referendum in Gujarat. PM Narendra Modi then designed and conducted a referendum during his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat. The referendum of April 2009 asked the Gujaratis to stamp ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on three related questions – did they want the money stashed in Swiss banks to be repatriated to India? Should the money funneled back be spent on the poor? Should the government initiate measures to unearth black money? Obviously, the state unit of the BJP showed tremendous enthusiasm to conduct the referendum. Ballot boxes were placed at public places – railway stations and shopping malls for instance – and autorickshaws ferried them from colony to colony. Gujarat’s referendum on black money lasted all of two days and even children were reported queuing to express their opinion.

But congress refused to question the Constitutional validity of that referendum. Now all of a sudden these two national parties, routed by Delhiites, woke up to “protect” the Constitution. The result of the referendum was remarkable but not astonishing – 98 per cent of people wanted Indian money in Swiss banks to be brought back. Modi just used the idea for parliamentary poll.

Earlier, in 2011, when the movement for carving out the state of Telangana was cleaving Andhra Pradesh, BJP state president G Kishan Reddy wanted then President Pratibha Patil to take the initiative for organizing a referendum on the contentious issue. He mooted this idea in response to the suggestion of Congress leader P Chidambaram that political parties of Andhra Pradesh should evolve a consensus on Telangana instead of making contradictory demands on the Union government.

BJP’s preference was to directly seek the opinion of people on the Telangana statehood issue, precisely what AAP wants how, rather than to have it held hostage to intense competition among political parties, each calculating what stance could have them harvest of a better crop of votes. BJP and Congress focus on anti-AAPism by disappointing the Delhiites on the issue.

It isn’t as if there is no precedence of seeking popular opinion to decide on the future of an entity, whether Union Territory or State. For instance, in December 1966, Parliament enacted the Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll) Act, outlining the process by which the status of these three places was to be determined.  On 16 Jan 1967, under the Opinion Poll Act (referendum), people voted to choose between two options – whether Goa should remain a Union Territory or merge with Maharashtra and Daman and Diu with Gujarat. The merger option had the symbol of flower; the other a pair of leaves. Goa, ultimately, voted against the merger, polling 54.20 per cent of votes and it became a state in 1987.

Though styled as Opinion Poll, it was in essence a referendum, as it asked people to choose between one of the two options. This process was adopted though Goa then had a 28-member Assembly, which was fractured on the issue of whether to retain its independent identity or merge with the neighbouring States. In the 1964 Goa election, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) had bagged 16 seats and the United Goans Party (UGP) the remaining 12. The MGP favoured merger with Maharashtra, arguing that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi and not a separate language.  By contrast, the UGP was opposed to merger with Maharashtra, claiming Goa’s culture was uniquely different from its mighty neighbor’s and Konkani was a language separate from Marathi. It also didn’t want Goa’s future to be decided in the Assembly, where the MGP would have won easily.

But from 1920 onwards, the Congress had recognised that Konkani language would be the basis of organizing state units in the country after independence. Perhaps this was why Goan Congress chief Purushottam Kakodkar’s support for referendum proved crucial. He was said to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family and it was believed his intervention, ultimately, led to the enactment of the Opinion Poll Act, which bound the Union government to accept the popular verdict of 16 Jan 1966.

The Goa opinion poll was indeed a referendum by another name. This brief history of Goa gives lie to Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken’s claims that Kejriwal’s idea of referendum is “a dangerous ploy with grave fallout.” Perhaps the Act didn’t use the nomenclature of referendum as the word had acquired an ominous echo because of the India-Pakistan joust over Kashmir where Kashmiris have been demanding a referendum to decide their future. India knows in referendum Kashmiris would opt for sovereignty against Indian will.

Delhi is a different issue all together.

The idea of referendum that the 44th amendment envisaged could have had far deeper consequences than what AAP wants – that is, to determine whether or not the people of Delhi want a full-fledged state.

It seems the BJP and the Congress are deliberately fanning fears without foundations that a referendum in Delhi could trigger these tendencies in states susceptible to separatist movements. This is of course plain paranoia. The very first article of the Constitution 1 states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”  Art 2 allows new states to be admitted into the Union. This is how Sikkim became a part of India, after, yes, a referendum was held there.

Obviously, the referendum AAP plans to hold will not have any legal sanctity and, therefore, the majority opinion thus expressed will not be binding on the Union government. AAP’s referendum, though, can mount moral, and popular, pressure on the Union to bestow on the Delhi government the powers other states enjoy, besides exposing the doublespeak of the BJP and Congress.

But for any referendum to acquire a moral edge must have a high percentage of voters’ participation and should not invite the charge of having been manipulated.  It shouldn’t be seen as a mere gimmick, as Gujarat’s referendum on black money was.  Thus, ideally, a referendum to have credibility must be supervised by the Election Commission. The Delhi Election Commission (DEC) can’t accede to the request of the Delhi government unless it has the approval of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

If central government does not give full statehood or denies referendum to decide the future of Delhi, the AAP would activate a full-blown movement to win the status of a full-fledged state for Delhi which would strengthen its national strength further.

Instead of the blockage mindset Congress-BJP duo has carved out for themselves to object to genuine cause of Delhi’s full statehood just for fun, a fair and  credible  gesture for full statehood would  help them  regain  some of if its lost votes and  prestige among Delhi voters.

Now that AAP has full mandate and Delhiites seeking full statehood, Delhi state becoming a  full-fledged state of India sooner than later is a foregone conclusion.

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