Issueless election

Issueless election

Are there any takers for full Delhi statehood?

Those of us who have been witnessing developments in Delhi from close quarters over the decades will tend to agree that the Capital city has undergone see change. But that does not necessarily mean that its problems are limited to power, water, security and certain other sundry aspects. Certainly, these are important issues to keep Delhites in a comfort zone but the problems have grown on much greater speed than the transformation which the city has witnessed in the recent past.

Going by what the three main contenders in the ongoing Assembly elections BJP, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have offered to the people to make Delhi a world class city that would entail equitable development of all areas and sections of the society, it is high on populism and woefully short on vision and planning. Least the people had expected was a vision document or a plan blue- print by each of the players to give an idea of what they perceive of Delhi’s problems and long term solutions.

What these political parties have unveiled in the name of vision is a peace-meal mention of the problems and developmental issues and offering freebies in terms of cheap power and water and promise to lower taxes here or there. These could have been part of the plan and not the plan itself as freebies do not offer a solution on permanent basis.

Delhi is suffering from acute shortage of good governance and the multiplicity of authorities has made the matters worst. There is the Delhi government, five civic authorities and an overall lording Central Government which has a crucial role to play due to quasi nature of Delhi state. 

Interestingly, all the three political players particularly BJP and the Congress which have alternatively ruled the state for long have been harping on the issue of providing full statehood to Delhi. But surprisingly they have now maintained a studied silence on this issue. AAP with only 49-day experience of running Delhi affairs has added it to the list of its emotive issues.

The statehood issue had been used by both the Congress and the BJP governments in Delhi to cover up their failures by blaming the Centre which is the overall controlling agency. The BJP was more vociferous during the 15-year rule of Congress and had repeatedly committed itself to statehood if it was voted to power. There was occasional rant by the then chief minister Mrs Sheila Dikshit also blaming the Centre for her own governance deficiencies.

 A broader debate and vision on this issue, for or against, should have been of great consequence to shape Delhi’s destiny. The fact that the statehood issue provides a diversionary handle to whosoever is governing the city, the key players particularly the BJP has preferred silence. 

The law and order particularly crime against women has been a key issue. Since this subject along with land comes under the domain of the Union Home Ministry so it has become a convenient tool for any local government to apportion blame on the Centre for any law and order failure.  A more visionary approach by the three political parties including a joint management of law and order in the event of a political party opposed to full statehood would have helped clearing mist on the issue which has been in public debate since 1993 when Delhi was given the present set up.

A similar situation has been prevailing on the housing front with Delhi Development Authority, the Centre controlled premier agency responsible for providing housing to all miserably failing on this front primarily due to lack of long term planning and rampant corruption. The agency has no clear idea about its land holdings which have been under the unauthorised occupation of land grabbers and property dealers.

 A related problem which has added to the never ending housing woes of Delhites is the continuous migration of career seekers from other parts of the country. This is, though, a sensitive issue but should have been covered under a vision document of the political parties with a greater focus on fast development on modern lines of the National Capital Region comprising of Delhi and towns in the neighbouring states. This was conceived as a plan over two decades back decongest Delhi but could not be properly implemented due to lack of political will.

How to improve civic amenities, control land mafia and law and order, provide better infrastructure including improvement of roads and sewer system and above all cleaning Yamuna? These are the burning issues which are awaiting replies and none of the three political parties have come out with concrete plans to address these basic issues.

The approach of the parties on this front has been adhocist and a more sound-byte oriented to attract media attention than anything else. Otherwise how would one explain the BJP chief ministerial hopeful and a tough cop of yesteryears Kiran Bedi’s “Mein Hoon Na” response to a query as to how would she ensure women security. Or by the same yardstick the three political parties vying with each other in promising cheap or free water, power and sewer facilities and offer no solution other than offering bait to the voters.

Given the multiplicity of problems which Delhi faces, the election so far is proving to be an absolute issueless. Glorification of the leaders of respective political parties and their hatred for each other has been consuming much of media space and campaign time.

Ironic it may sound that despite limited powers and electoral victory in Delhi is considered prestigious by all those in the electoral fray. It is because of Delhi’s status as the Capital which is centre of political and media power. Often it is said that a political development happening here has a ripple effect all over the country.

At the same time those who come to live in this city also rue after sometime and long to shift to a more comfortable and comparatively smaller city. That should have been reason enough for the BJP, Congress and AAP leaders to come out with their vision on how to clear the mess that Delhi currently is. But that has gone missing.