It was a bizarre turn of events when following Delhi Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government Law Minister Bharati picking on a fight with Delhi Police, the whole lot of the state government led by its Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal hit the street to stage ‘dharna’ before the Central Government. Many eyebrows were raised, many were rubbing their eyes in disbelief and many more were questioning if AAP government was still in its activism mode rather than the governance one. Still others – Congress and BJP in particular – were seen raising the issue of making a mockery of democratic norms the way AAP Chief Minister and his colleagues backed up by their supporters, continued spilling on to an area near Rail Bhawan, not very far from South / North Block from where the Central government rules.
Very tough questions indeed for the AAP and Arvind to answer for it was the first ever occasion when a Chief Minister and his Ministers on a certain issue, had chosen to challenge the Union Government head on in a manner it was witnessed. It was termed as a pressure tactic undemocratically applied and the way it placed everything else in Delhi on hold for nearly 32 hours beginning this Monday, many may now continue to wonder if it absolutely was the last option. Or, more appropriately, an option well within the democratic and Constitutional norms – that can be held justifiable anyway and that whether it can ever be endorsed.
Now that the crisis is over, temporarily though perhaps, entire issue and approach adopted for addressing the same can now be dissected and analysed. This is with a view to find whether the established Indian democratic norms have been mocked and maligned or else the same has otherwise opened up a new window to ponder and think about the course-correction on issues posing hurdles in effective governance and administration.
The basic issue that ignited the fire was, AAP Law Minister, last week on a late night vigil, seemingly dictating the Delhi Police, right on the site of the alleged criminal activities going on, to act against the wrong- doings some foreign African national people were reportedly found indulging in for quite sometime. Police refused to take Minister’s command without any preliminary enquiry of its own and Minister insisting on action right there and then, turned out to be the flash point for the events that followed.
However, in order to get a hang of the underlying basic issue and its appraisal, it needs to be stated right away that police administration is Delhi is not under the Delhi state government. It’s under the Union Home Ministry instead. And from such an arrangement stems the problem for Delhi government in addressing the issues concerning crime-control and law and order within its own jurisdiction.
Both Congress and BJP, among others, are very well aware of this administrative arrangement and have, in the past more than once they have pleaded for a change. Both had the agenda seeking full statehood for Delhi in their manifestos in the last Assembly elections signifying thereby that police should come under state government. Congress that’s been in power at the Centre for 10 years (2004-2014) and was in power in Delhi for 15 years (1998-2013), one may recall, Sheila Dixit occasionally voicing, in vein though, the issue of Delhi Police being placed at the disposal of the state government.
AAP too in its manifesto (clause 12) has noted that it will strive to bring Delhi Police under the control of Delhi government. Kejriwal says, he is the elected representative, so state police should report to him and not to the Centre; citizens with law and order grievances come to him and not to Union Home Minister or Lt Governor, Delhi. He further seeks to clarify, in its wake, that the Centre can retain control over NDMC and Delhi Cantonment areas and put rest of the national capital areas under state government. Notably, Sheila Dixit too had proposed the same while as Chief Minister, Delhi.
Let’s now have a look at how the centre views this issue. There are vital security issues involved in national capital so Delhi Police cannot be placed under Delhi government, that’s how it is sought to be presented. It’s further argued that putting it under Delhi government could mean unnecessary interference in its functioning by the MLAs. It goes on to further say that dividing Delhi Police’s senior functionaries in two parts – NDMC and Delhi Cantonment being one, rest of Delhi, other – could lead to complete chaos on the law and order and crime-control fronts.
As it is, Delhi Police under Central Government gets a huge budget and significant autonomy. All this is likely to get diluted the day it’s asked to change its political masters. That’s how the scenario and status of Delhi Police stands as of now, one may need to appreciate this.
Given the way, therefore, the status of Delhi Police may seem unlikely to undergo any significant changes in the near future. This may mean dilemma of Arvind Kejriwal – or for that matter any other Delhi Chief Minister – may persist in so far as handling of issues of law and order and crime-control within one’s own jurisdiction are concerned. This is, however, absolutely an anomalous situation where political executives not having any direct authority on certain issues and yet are often held accountable and responsible – at least in the eyes of the people – for any lapses therein. This, one can imagine, is crux of the problem Arvind has attempted to place it in the public domain in his own inimitable way the other day.
AAP and Arvind cannot, however, be forgiven for the kind of commotion and inconveniences Delhiites were subjected to early this week. But the way they were cornered into swinging into action, the course they chose to follow may not, in the least, seem undemocratic and unconstitutional even though it was totally unconventional. But then, who says Arvind is a traditionalist; he is, right from the day he transformed himself from one as activist to a politician, has declared himself as change agent. To this, now, after the recent Delhi ‘dharna’ gets added a label of ‘anarchist’ – a label not fastened on to him by his rivals but by him only. Can anyone beat it?