Political faultlines in the newly elected civic House were laid bare on Friday, when 250 councillors of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) met for the first time since the December 2022 polls, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to “steal its mandate” by manipulating key legislative appointments and violating constitutional conventions.
The House became the stage for unfettered bedlam as elected councillors fought pitched battles in the well of the House, jostling, pushing and slapping each other, even as the presiding officer adjourned the session for the just three-and-a-half hours into the day. The lieutenant governor’s office will fix a fresh date to convene the House.
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Within six minutes of the meeting on Friday, AAP councillors trooped into the well of the House, protesting against the presiding officer’s decision to first administer oaths to the 10 nominated members, known as aldermen.
The AAP, which holds the majority in the House with 134 members, alleged that the presiding officer — Satya Sharma, a BJP councillor — wanted to administer oath to the aldermen first so that “they could vote in the mayoral polls.”
“Officials of the House said that the LG’s office instructed them to make nominated councillors vote. Delhi LG VK Saxena should clarify whether such instructions were given or not. If not, then declare in writing that the nominated councillors will not vote,” the AAP’s Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj alleged.
To be sure, according to The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, aldermen do not have voting rights in the House.
The BJP and LG’s office rejected AAP’s allegations.
The LG office said that all appointments and nominations by Saxena were done in consonance with the law.
The BJP called the AAP’s conduct in the House “shameful”.
In December, the AAP unseated the BJP in a high-stakes, bitter fight for the MCD. The BJP had ruled the civic body for three consecutive terms and the AAP was eyeing control over the corporation, which rivals the Delhi government in its reach and expanse of administrative powers.
Atishi, the AAP’s Kalkaji MLA, said that instead of AAP councillor Mukesh Goel, who is the senior-most member of the House, a BJP councillor was appointed presiding officer, in violation of democratic conventions. She also reiterated Bharadwaj’s charge that the BJP was trying to get aldermen to vote in the mayoral polls.
“The BJP’s conspiracy was to go against the Constitution by administering oath to the nominated members, and get them to vote in the elections for the posts of mayor, deputy mayor and members of the standing committee. The Delhi high court ordered in 2015 that nominated members do not have the right to vote in the House. Article 243R of the Constitution of India and the DMC Act’s Section 3B-1 states that nominated members do not have the right to vote in corporation proceedings,” Atishi said in a press conference on Friday.
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh blamed BJP councillors for the violence in the House.
“Second-time AAP councillor Praveen Kumar was assaulted by BJP members. He sustained injuries when he opposed the administration of oath to aldermen before the councillors. The BJP was conspiring to give voting rights to aldermen,” Singh said in a press conference.
However, Meenakshi Lekhi, the BJP MP from New Delhi, blamed the AAP for the mayhem during the Friday meeting.
“We have never seen this kind of anarchist activity in the MCD House. It is shameful. These people (who created ruckus) are the same ones who said that they are anarchists…. It was a conspiracy by the AAP and they had decided that they will not allow the House to function. They caused a ruckus and misbehaved with people.”
Lekhi also said that the councillors cannot challenge the discretion of the presiding officer on who will be administered oath first.
“The LG appointed Satya Sharma, who is a three-time councillor, as the presiding officer as per the DMC Act to conduct the proceedings of the House in a fair manner. It was the presiding officer’s discretion, which they couldn’t challenge. In the hindsight, the decision taken by Sharma was right, because the AAP would not have allowed the nominated members to take oath later,” Lekhi said.
Bharadwaj hit back and said that AAP councillors were injured in the clashes and were being treated at Lok Nayak Hospital. He added that the AAP will soon register an FIR in the matter.
Senior police officers confirmed that no formal complaint was filed till late Friday evening.
Singh also alleged that the BJP was trying to get support from the Congress councillors by offering them money and official positions. He claimed that a Congress councillor, Naziya Danish, has been appointed a member of the Haj committee in return for her support in the mayoral elections.
Danish said the allegations were baseless. “We will file a defamation suit against Sanjay Singh. The Congress has decided to abstain from voting, we will not vote in the mayoral polls,” she said.