Despite being the capital city of many kingdoms over centuries, Delhiís fortunes picked up only after the British made it the capital of India in 1911. As the chief commissionerís province since 1912, it was fully under the control of the Central government. This arrangement lasted until the Constitution of independent India came into force in 1950.
The state reorganization commission of 1956 allowed Delhi a municipal corporation which, like all local self-government institutions in India, was fairly powerless. A metropolitan council was later created in 1966. Thus, until 1993, when the status of a self-governing Union territory was conferred on it by the 69th constitutional amendment, the Union government effectively administered Delhi.
The first elections to the Delhi legislature under the 69th amendment in 1993 brought the BJP to power. The Congress was then in power at the Centre. And when the Congress won the state elections in 1998, a BJP-led government was in power in New Delhi.
The irony goes further. Section 48 of the transaction of business rules, which makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to get prior approval of the Centre before introducing a bill in the legislative assembly, was in place when the Congress and the United Front were in power at the Centre. The BJP then had control of the Delhi government. The Congress then had no problems with the section, but is creating a furore against its re-imposition now when it is in power in the state. The BJP, on the other hand, which had deleted this section for its own government in the state, has re-imposed it now that it is no longer ruling Delhi. The Congress is naturally incensed at this move just a year before the assembly elections in the state.
But the question is: how should the national capital of India be governed' What should be the extent of control of the Centre on the Delhi government' Why donít the two come to an understanding whereby the city government does not embarrass the Centre and vice versa, on key managerial and security issues'
Most capital cities of the world have their own city governments, with separate politico-administrative units delinked from the provincial or regional government. In most of them the mayor, either directly elected or indirectly, is the most visible face of the government. In many of them, the police is controlled by the city government, an arrangement that has been fairly amicable.
Many of them have lately moved towards representative government. In 1989, Canberra got its first directly elected legislature and chief minister after a prolonged demand for self-government. Since 2001, London has the Greater London Authority, represented by an elected mayor, working with a directly elected assembly. Also, for the first time since the seat of government shifted to Berlin after unification, the German administration is making innovations in the city government, so as to give it greater autonomy.
Capital cities have national and international functions and responsibilities, which at times may be much beyond the scope, capacities and resources they command. Since the capital city is a countryís window to the world, the administrations of the city and nation should share a complementary relationship which goes beyond narrow partisanship in order to ensure good governance.
Why then canít political parties in India rise above their narrow interests and resolve their turf war over Delhi to give Indiaís national capital a good and representative government' This will not only help the political parties, but also benefit the citizens.