What Can New Delhi Learn from London’s Mayoral Position

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.

Odd-Even Formula shall be Discontinued!

The latest experiment by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal of allowing a car to ply only on alternate days has garnered mixed reactions from the general public and pollution monitoring agencies alike. Some say that the Odd-Even formula has been a massive success and would go a long way in curbing pollution in the city, while others have dismissed it as yet another naive move by the Aam Aadmi Party government which would lead to counterproductive results. In my opinion, Odd-Even formula can be deemed as a successful stint for the most part, but for it to be considered a precedent for the future, we need to sort out the innumerous other considerations that come with it.

From the perspective of an ordinary Dilliwallah, I think the Odd-Even formula has managed to achieve three things; one, it has patently reduced the traffic in the city with the time taken to travel between two spots being almost reduced by half; two, it has managed to invoke a sense of responsibility amongst Delhi citizens, with many of them using cabs and some even car pooling to move around the city; and three, although there isn’t complete consensus on it but it is suffice to say that the pollution levels in the city during the prescribed period have come down, albeit marginally.

That being said, the Odd-Even formula has not been implemented without its share of problems. Although, the time taken to commute may have reduced, that is largely because half the people have been forced to remain confined to their homes for half the week. Although, cabs and car pooling may have surged, the most important transport systems in Delhi i.e. Metro and DTC buses remain overcrowded as ever, perhaps even more so due to the present scheme. The people have been largely inconvenienced and while some might say that it is worth the sacrifice, I would argue it’s not, because the discomfort one would have to face on a daily basis if this scheme is continued may ultimately end up altering the very way of life in the city and not necessarily in a good way.

It is unlikely that the Odd-Even scheme would be extended beyond January 15th’16, but once it ends, the Delhi Government should forget about the underlying issue entirely. It should strenuously mull, in consultation with the centre, schemes to overhaul the transport system in the city by way of various capacity building programmes through increased public expenditure, look out for alternative sources of energy that may be suitable and in essence, design policy which serves the purpose of curbing pollution without massively discomforting the public. We can only hope the future is better.

Delhi is a F*ckin’ Chaos

With the parliament not functioning, a bitter fight between the CMO & PMO and the pollutions level so high that it is difficult to breathe, our beloved city of Delhi has turned into a high stake war zone for mighty reputations and the concerns of citizens are becoming increasingly secondary.

As we enter the final fortnight of 2015, the politics in this city keeps getting uglier each passing day. As Modi’s wide ranging policies start to take shape, Sonia Gandhi has clearly lost her mind and made it clear that she will not let the parliament function unless the BJP comes begging at her feet. In my opinion, the saffron party needs to keep up the good work both on the administrative and policy side but sacrifice legislation for some time because there is no point arguing with a woman who can’t accept the fact that her “mother-in-law’s” party is a declining power.

At the same time, our bumbling CM Arvind Kejriwal has found yet another reason to attack Prime Minister Modi, and is now implying that the CBI raid on his principal secretary is in in fact a plot by the BJP to threaten him in some way. The demolition drive carried out by the railways, which allegedly led to the death of a 6 month old infant became another reason for the ugly turf war between the state and central governments. Although, in both cases, there isn’t enough evidence to come to a conclusion as to which part is making the right assertions, it can be said that Kejriwal doesn’t miss an opportunity to bait the centre and the latter walks into it rather easily. Ultimately, it is the ordinary Dilliwallah which suffers every time Kejriwal makes any move by the centre a pride issue.

Furthermore, 2016 is going to take an interesting start with the Odd-Even formula notified by the Delhi Government wherein odd number cars would be allowed to ply only on odd numbered days and vice versa. Also, the NGT has banned the sale of diesel vehicles entirely which has led to an enormous pile up with car dealerships. While both the moves have certain merits attached to them, they also lack vision and shall only be implemented after analysing all its implications and possible alternatives. That being said, the problem of increasing pollution is indeed real and Delhiites need to be prepared to make certain sacrifices for the sake of their city.

Conclusively, it is needless to say that Delhi is going through scary but at the same time, exciting times, so take a deep breath and hope for the best.