The councillors of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Friday, 6 January, came down to fisticuffs – literally – in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Civic Centre where they had gathered to elect the mayor for Delhi.
Why did they clash? The immediate trigger for the pushing, jostling, climbing on desks and falling down from them was the fact that the temporary speaker Satya Sharma started the swearing-in session of councillors by inviting the nominated members, first.
AAP insisted that elected members should be sworn in first and rushed to the centre of the house, shouting in protest when Sharma invited alderman Manoj Kumar to take the oath.
What happened then? The BJP members countered AAP by shouting slogans of their own and the two sides got in a heated debate. This soon led to a brawl and the councillors were seen pushing and shoving each other.
After the ruckus, the speaker adjourned the session until further notice.
The BJP mayor candidate Rekha Gupta alleged that AAP got into the fight because it feared losing the mayor's post.
"AAP fears losing. Climbing on the table of the presiding officer, breaking mics and throwing chairs - the culture they're developing is condemnable. Some of them (AAP councillors) had come to the MCD house after consuming liquor."Rekha Gupta
However, the commotion in the civic centre on Friday was a culmination of a series of grievances vocalised by AAP in the last few days.
Grievance #1: The appointment of temporary speaker was done by the Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) VK Saxena. Saxena, who himself is an appointee of the BJP-ruled union government, chose a BJP councillor as the temporary speaker. AAP objected to this saying the post should go to the senior most councillor. It had recommended Mukesh Goyal, the senior most councillor, for the post.
"It is the tradition that the senior most member of House is nominated as Speaker or presiding officer. But BJP is hell bent destroying all democratic traditions and Institutions."– AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, in a tweet
Grievance #2: AAP has also taken issue with the nomination of all BJP-aligned individuals as aldermen. The LG has the powers to nominate 10 members to the Delhi civic body but they do not have the right to vote in the mayor election. AAP has accused the LG of blatantly favouring the BJP in the choice of these aldermen.
Grievance #3: AAP claims that the speaker Sharma wants to give voting rights to the aldermen in the mayor election so that the BJP candidate's chances would be bolstered.
AAP won on 134 wards out of 250 while the BJP managed to get 104 of its councillors elected. The Congress has nine councillors but has decided to not participate in the voting for the mayor's post.
"BJP wants to give voting rights to the nominated members. Congress is siding with the BJP in this game; its nine councillors are helping the BJP by choosing a walkout. Does Amit Shah want to bring in BJP mayor by indulging in hooliganism?"AAP Twitter handle
What happens next? The speaker may notify another date for the mayoral election soon. Since the voting for the mayor happens through secret ballots, the BJP would be hoping for cross-voting from the AAP councillors.