Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is in the eye of a political storm that has taken on a national dimension. In an interview with Outlook, he explains its genesis and why he is protesting against the IAS officers strike, and why statehood of Delhi holds significance for people of Delhi and beyond.
What do you hope your protest will achieve—if the Center and L-G don’t yield, what will the AAP do?
IAS officers are on strike for the last four months. They are not attending any meeting called by the ministers nor are they taking their phone calls. They even refuse to accompany ministers on field visits. This strike is being anchored by the Delhi LG on directions of PMO. Delhi has a peculiar situation. LG and Centre have complete control over officers. Before our govt, Sheila govt had complete control over officers. However, Modi govt took away all powers of Delhi govt through an order dated 21st May 2015. Now, the Delhi govt does not have powers to transfer any officer, suspend them or take any action for any wrongdoing.
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Situation is so bad that the Chief Minister of Delhi cannot even decide his own peon. When officers are in complete control of central government, they have to do their bidding. Many officers have told us in private that they are threatened by Raj Niwas if any officer is even seen to be talking to any minister. PM Modi wants to completely paralyse Delhi govt through these officers. Obviously, we will not leave till the officer’s strike is called off.
Please could you share what it means that four state CMs have rallied behind you and AAP. People are feeling engaged with federalism and supporting your cause. Why is this so?
As four judges also had to come out and do an extraordinary press conference, democracy and most institutions are under threat. The people of Delhi are grateful to the four honorable Chief Ministers. Delhi being the national Capital, belongs to every citizen of India. What is happening in Delhi is really worrisome.
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What city do you see as a model or parallel for Delhi in terms of power sharing and management? Could it be Canberra, or London or Washington—what model can we follow here?
Different models are followed by different countries on governing their national capitals. This issue was also discussed in detail by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in 2003, then headed by (former President) Mr Pranab Mukherjee. This committee examined the Delhi Statehood Bill 2003 and the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill also. The committee examined system of governance in cities like Washington DC, Canberra etc and reached to the conclusion that every country has a different system and proposed that for Delhi the NDMC area – which has all important national offices and central government’s seat of governance - should be kept under the Centre’s control and rest of Delhi be granted full statehood.
We are also saying almost the same thing that the Central government should keep the NDMC area governed by the NDMC Act and grant statehood to Delhi.
What would people of Delhi gain by full statehood? Could you please elaborate a little because ultimately they are the ones to benefit.
The biggest benenfit to the people of Delhi by getting statehood will be that they will be able to hold their elected government directly accountable for its performance. People of Delhi contribute around Rs 1.5 lakh crores in taxes to the central government and since Delhi is not a state, it does not get anything in return like the states share in central taxes. Imagine if the Finance Commission treats Delhi as a state and by most conservative estimates, Delhi were to get around Rs 50,000 crore every year, how much developmental work will be possible.
Similarly, if Delhi is a state, the elected government will not be at the mercy of the LG and Central government for everything ranging from seeking approvals to bills passed by the Delhi Assembly to transfers and postings of officers. Today, the situation is that even the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, which is the basic feature of the Indian Constitution, is not binding on Delhi’s LG. Is it fair?
Why do you think the LG and central government is opposing doorstep delivery of food rations?
Let us first understand what is doorstep delivery of rations. Right now, poor people have to go to ration shops to pick up their monthly entitlements. Many shopkeepers play foul. They don’t open their shops regularly, mistreat people, overcharge, underweigh, adulterate etc. Under the doorstep delivery of rations scheme, we propose to deliver rations at your doorstep every month. Packets will be made of your entitled food and delivered by a professional company at your doorstep. This is such a progressive and revolutionary step that no sane person on earth can have any objection to. Obviously, the objection by LG is purely political because he does not want our govt to succeed and he creates obstacles in almost everything good that we do.
Also, the stance of Shiela Dixit—was it a surprise that after all these years a Congress leader has backtracked on statehood?
It is quite sad that they have taken such a stand.
How are ministers Satyendra Jain and Manish Sisodia ji doing after all these days on hunger strike?
Their parameters are fine but they are feeling quite weak.
Are there some helpful IAS officers also, in Delhi? Do you blame the IAS lobby for how it has behaved for last 120 days and earlier or is it the Modi government and LG whom you hold responsible?
Most IAS officers are good, sincere and honest. They are being threatened into strike by LG and PM
Suddenly, there seems to be problems with water in Sangam Vihar particularly. What has led to this problem there, which is being linked with your protest?
There are some parts of Delhi which have water problems. But when I call the CEO of DJB, he never attends my meetings, does not respond to my calls. How do I solve problems?