The BJP-led NDA government is understood to be gearing up to grant full statehood to the national capital in an attempt to woo voters just as the Delhi appears to be headed for a fresh round of assembly elections.
If all goes well, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may announce Delhi's full statehood from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15. Government sources told dna that a move is afoot over the past few days to
evaluate the pros and cons of granting full statehood to Delhi. Granting statehood means vesting the state chief minister with control over the police, land and bureaucracy. Sources also confirmed that the government is seeking inputs from security agencies before giving the move a go-ahead.
Full statehood for Delhi has been a long-pending demand, going back to the 1950s. While the BJP won all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi in the 2014 general election, the party is not yet confident about its prospects in a fresh poll in the capital. Inflation, high power bills, water crises and civic issues are likely to hit its fortunes. The party faces a stiff opponent in the Aam Aadmi Party, which has started to mobilise its campaign again after the its poor show in the general election.
Veterans in BJP, including Madan Lal Khuranna, Kedar Nath Sahani and VK Malhotra, have led the battle for full-statehood in the past. These leaders have faced the blow of lathis and water cannons during demonstrations for the same.
Interestingly, after the Khirki Extenstion episode, in which AAP MLA Somnath Bharti demanded a raid against African drug peddlers in Delhi in January this year, then Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had held a protest outside the home ministry against the functioning of the Delhi police. It was a rare sight to watch a chief minister lead a protest against the police force of his own state. Delhi being the national capital, the police reports to the home ministry and the land in Delhi falls under the urban development ministry's purview.
"For any state, law and order, land and appointment of officials (bureaucracy) are the most important functions. In the case of Delhi, these three powers are with the Centre," said senior BJP Leader VK Malhotra. Malhotra said that the Congress never wanted to give Delhi complete independence in functioning and so withheld its full statehood.
While the Congress, in all its elections manifestoes has promised full statehood for Delhi, the Congress at the Centre held a counter view. The BJP, however, has been demanding full statehood for Delhi since its Jan Sangh days in the late 1950s. The Delhi Metropolitan Council and the Delhi government with the BJP in power had passed a resolution in 1968 and 1993. In 2003, the NDA government had tabled the Statehood Bill in parliament, but the government fell before the bill could be passed.