NEW DELHI

Statehood still distant dream for Delhi

NEW DELHI NOV. 9. The initial enthusiasm and "so-called consensus'' on Statehood suddenly threaten to turn into a major deadlock with no likelihood of the Statehood Bill for Delhi being introduced in the Winter Session of Parliament. Both the major parties -- the Congress and the BJP -- have reconciled to the fact that a number of contentious issues, challenges and obstacles have to be worked out before this concept could take concrete shape.

While almost a month ago the leaders of both the parties had claimed that they had reached a consensus on majority of the issues concerning Statehood, it is now turning out that even on the issues where consensus was claimed, things are not working according to the plan. In fact, the dream of the BJP State president, Madan Lal Khurana, to get the Statehood Bill passed in the Winter Session of Parliament is unlikely to be realised as even the basic draft of the concept is not ready. On her part, the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, has made it clear that she would first work for building an opinion among the experts, senior citizens and masses before arriving at any decision.

Insiders in the Government told The Hindu that while both the main players have been talking of Statehood and consensus, what they seem to have forgotten is that there is a third party to the dispute -- the Union Government. In fact, it is pointed out that the grant of special category status sought for financial and administrative matters by the BJP and Congress would not be an easy affair. Officials said the first major obstacle in the grant of Statehood would be the demand by the two parties to hand over control of NDMC to the State Government. This is something which is likely to face strong opposition from the Union Government as well as the strong bureaucratic lobby at the Centre and could possibly derail the whole process.

Apart from this, there is still no idea of what would be the boundaries, contours, powers both financial and administrative, of the new State which is sought by the two parties. There could be colossal problems with regard to the demand for special financial powers to the newly created State. "It would be difficult to give extra-ordinary financial powers to Delhi State as no such provision was made when three new States were created recently by the Central Government,'' a senior bureaucrat remarked. In fact, it is believed that any attempt to give special treatment to Delhi could lead to similar demands from other special category states which could make things difficult for the Union Government.

Similarly, it is pointed out that no boundaries had been outlined for the new State which also talked of special powers to the Union Government with regard to VVIP security. No effort has been made to reorganise territorial areas. If the NDMC area and some other portions are left out of the new State then both the Centre and Delhi Government would have to deal with the tricky issue of distributing the finances and share in taxes. It would have to be decided who will collect taxes from which area and what will be the share of the State.

Apart from this, another contentious issue could be the control over Delhi police. It would be a difficult task for the Union Government to demarcate the role of Delhi police after giving Statehood to Delhi. In fact, the more worrisome part would be who would foot the massive bill for maintaining the large police force. With the Delhi Government making it clear that it was in no mood to take this burden, it could well turn out to be a thorny issue and stall the whole process.

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