While Arvind Kejriwal has a natural gift of rabble rousing, his government’s demand that the State be given control over Delhi Police, if met, is fraught with serious implications. First, the experience of India’s federalism does not suggest that a police force works better under the State government. Examples abound from Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal. Second, which is related to the first, activists who demand police reforms complain that the thing that comes in the way of the department’s proper conduct is politics. Delhi Police being arguably the least political of all polices in India — it has seldom been heard that the force is being misused by the Congress or the BJP — bringing it under the Delhi government will make it acquire the same malaise that afflict other States’ polices. Third, the Aam Aadmi Party, in its conduct, has not been able to inspire this confidence that it would handle law and order objectively. It has a propensity to subscribe to the wildest of conspiracy theories and float some of its own like the allegation that the police tried to kill an inconsequential ‘leader’ of the party. Its recruitment of dozens of MLAs as secretaries and making party apparatchik Navin Jaihind’s wife the head of Delhi’s Commission for Women indicates that, given the charge of the police, its favouritism and nepotism will affect the force. Fourth, the AAP’s record of demanding leniency for law breakers (for example, those who do not pay electricity and water bills) creates the apprehension that populism would influence policing in the capital, too.
Fifth, the Constitution does not provide for referendum. The proposed ‘referendum’ for Delhi’s full Statehood, of which policing is a part, would have no validity. The opinion poll, which it actually will be, would give a fillip to Kashmiri separatists’ longstanding demand for a plebiscite in the northern-most State. That would be a challenge to the nation’s integrity, given the irreconcilable demographic divide that it has witnessed since the signing of the Instrument of Accession, thanks to Article 370. Besides, Delhi does not belong to the people who live in this city alone. The whole country has a right to decide the administrative destiny of the national capital. The hub of the Indian executive’s policy- and decision-making processes cannot be allowed to be held to ransom by the expediency of local politics.
Sixth, the manner in which the AAP government has treated several IAS officers on deputation, denying them proper portfolios for days on end, gives rise to the possibility that it would misbehave with police officers, too. It is time a prominent section of the media that has been cheerleading this raucous city-based party without questioning it resumes sound journalism for the sake of sanity in the nation’s polity. When the chief minister ignored Police Commissioner BS Bassi’s proposal of compensating all victims of crime, most of whom are poor, Kejriwal’s ‘pro-poor’ plank stood exposed. It became clear that it isn’t the poor, but an identifiable face or case on television that motivates the media-created party. Denial of constant oxygen of publicity to Kejriwal & Co would be the most effective way of making them behave. And the police of the nation’s capital must remain a Central subject.