As London’s Mayoral elections draw to a close, all of us living in the capital city of India, New Delhi, must ask ourselves whether our Chief Minister’s office, currently head by the all to controversial Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, is as powerful as the Mayor’s office in London. The reason for such an introspection is that both London & New Delhi are densely populated metropolitan capital cities impacting millions of lives and the person responsible for governing those lives should have all the tools available to him in order to serve the people without any confrontation with the central government, a problem increasingly becoming routine in Delhi. So to the answer the question, no, Delhi’s Chief Minister is not quite as powerful as the Mayor Of London, the reasons for which I would attempt to dissect in this blog, while simultaneously arguing why it would be a good move to accede to Mr. Kejriwal’s demand of giving Delhi complete statehood status.
New Delhi and London – Key Differences
While the outgoing Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has many a times complained that enough powers haven’t been granted to him, he would be surprised to know that his counterpart in Delhi is even more beleaguered than him. There are certain key differences between the two posts that one must take cognizance of, in order to understand the challenges faced by the Delhi government under the current status-quo.
Land Policy: While even the London Mayor has to exercise constraint over the housing policy adopted by him due to restrictions imposed by the central government, the Delhi Chief Minister has absolutely no jurisdiction over the same since the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the body overseeing the state-sponsored housing & construction activities in the city, comes not under the control of the Delhi government but under the Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) of the Union Government, a decision that dates back to 1962 when Delhi wasn’t even a partial state. Any new project that requires government land needs to be first approved by the MUD, consequentially leaving the Delhi government with no real authority of the projects that see the light of day.
Police & Public Order: Every capital city needs proper security arrangements, not just for the VVIP’s therein, but more importantly, the vast population of people which reside in it. Unlike the Met Police in London which is governed by the Mayor’s office, the Delhi Police comes under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOH) of the Union government. Confusion over who gets to govern the security personnel in the city not just inconveniences the ordinary lives of the people but ends up leaving lots of gaps over the pandemic security situation & general public order in the Capital.
Under the Constitution of India, Delhi is a union territory which is to be governed by a representative of the President, who has authority over the three aspects listed above. However, the current representative, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, is seen by many as a stooge of the central government who often crosses constitutional boundaries by interfering in the appointment of bureaucrats and the overall functioning of the state government. Thus, after taking cognizance of the above facts, one can argue that the Delhi Chief Minister ‘is in office but not in power.’
Full Statehood for Delhi – High Time?
We must recognize the fact that when it comes to urban cities like London or New Delhi, it is responsive & dynamic executive action that makes the difference & while some disagreements are bound to arise between two power centers, as I am sure they do in London, petty tussles like the ones in Delhi are just downright deplorable which end up depleting the quality of governance in the city. Delhi, which in my opinion is the finest city in the country, with such a rich history and unparalleled diversity, deserves better from its government. Delhi, like London, must have a Chief Minister who is responsible for all the aspects of the city and such a scenario is only possible if the Narendra Modi government grants full statehood rights to Delhi, bringing it at par with every other state in the country.
Granting full statehood to Delhi would not just be a gift to the people of the city but it would also be a politically significant move. It would not only put an end to the confrontational relationship between the Central & City government, but would also be a major image boost for the central government by pledging its adherence to democracy, amidst all the allegations that the its turning increasingly authoritarian. Statehood for Delhi is a movement that would likely gather steam over the next few years, given that the Chief Minister has made it abundantly clear that he does not accept the status-quo and the central government at the center would send a strong signal by accepting his demands without any political slug-fests.
However, one knows all too well that this is nothing more than a Utopian hope and it would take a long painstaking movement to achieve such a result. In the meantime, Delhiites would just have to keep tolerating an ultra-anarchist Chief Minister and an ultra-arrogant Prime Minister.