A constitution bench of the Supreme Court reversed a high court decision to rule that the Centre-appointed lieutenant governor of Delhi is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers of the Delhi government. In an interview, PRAKASH SINGH, former chief of Border Security Force, tells Ritwik Sharma that the chief minister of Delhi should be respectful towards the central government and the Centre should be accommodating towards him in order to end the tug of war and ensure better governance of the capital.
This week’s Supreme Court verdict has restored the primacy of the elected government of Delhi in matters of administrative control, although it said the capital could not be granted the status of a state. In such a scenario, how viable is the demand for statehood, which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been pushing for?
Delhi has a long pending demand for statehood. The demand is legitimate and it is high time that the matter is considered at the highest level without being constrained by political or other extraneous considerations. The simplest solution would be that Old Delhi is given statehood with a separate administrative structure. Police, public order and land in Old Delhi could also be placed under the control of the state government. Old Delhi could have a separate commissioner of police. New Delhi should continue to have the existing arrangement.
From an administrative point of view, what are the unique challenges that Delhi faces, and how is it different from other Union Territories?
Delhi faces unique challenges, which make it different from other Union Territories. It is the seat of government of India’s power. All the ministries are located here. Major decisions affecting the country are taken in Delhi. It has all the foreign embassies. Delhi is visited by the highest dignitaries from abroad round the year. Major national events such as the Republic Day and Independence Day are celebrated in Delhi. Delhi is, in fact, not only the political capital but also the cultural capital of the country. International fairs are held here. People from all over the country come to Delhi for diverse purposes. From the administrative point of view, it would be necessary to have a separate set-up for areas where “national” activities take place.
In the context of the continuing tussle between the AAP government and the Centre-appointed lieutenant governor, do you think there should be clearer demarcation of roles for bureaucrats and the police?
Yes, there should be a clear demarcation in the roles and functions of the police officers and bureaucrats to prevent any tussle at the highest level.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, how should political parties across the spectrum take up the question of statehood for Delhi in the legislature?
Political parties across the spectrum should take the question of statehood in a democratic manner and not through agitation.
Given the breakdown of Centre-state relations in Delhi in recent years with rivals in power, in a manner that was not seen earlier, what should be done to ensure synergy between the AAP government and the Centre?
There must be synergy between the state government of Delhi and the central government. The unseemly spectacle, which we witnessed in the recent past, is basically because of the mindset of political leaders. Arvind Kejriwal has been very arrogant in his attitude towards the central government. He has made statements which hurt the political leadership of the country. The central government retaliated through the lieutenant governor with the objective of cutting him down to size. As a consequence, there was confrontation. Governance came to a standstill. The chief minister of Delhi should be respectful towards the central government and the government of India should be sympathetic and accommodating towards him. Both need to understand that poor governance in Delhi is seen by the world and tarnishes the image of the country.
If Delhi is granted statehood, how could the people benefit from it?
People would benefit if Old Delhi is granted statehood because then there would be an accountable state government. This is, however, not to say that New Delhi would suffer. It would flourish under the existing arrangement by virtue of its composition and the nature of problems in the area.
How feasible is the suggestion of keeping certain areas of Delhi under the Centre’s control, and the rest as part of the state?
It should be quite feasible to keep New Delhi areas under the Centre’s control. In fact, the Centre’s control is already there, we are suggesting its shrinkage to New Delhi areas only.