Voting began on Wednesday to elect the new mayor of Delhi as the municipal House met after three previous failed attempts to hold the election to the top post.
BJP MPs Meenakashi Lekhi and Hans Raj Hans were among the firsts to cast their votes.
Other BJP MPs — Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma, Harsh Vardhan, Gautam Gambhir, Ramesh Bidhuri and Manoj Tiwari — and AAP MPs Sanjay Singh, N D Gupta and Sushil Kumar Gupta have also exercised their franchise. AAP MLAs Durgesh Pathak and Atishi have also caste their votes.
BJP councillor and party’s mayor candidate Rekha Gupta, AAP’s mayor candidate Shelly Oberoi and deputy mayor candidate Aaley Mohammed Iqbal, former North Delhi mayor Raja Iqbal Singh, Leader of AAP in the House Mukesh Goel, and several other councillors have also cast their votes.
The mayoral election is being conducted following a Supreme Court order after three failed attempts earlier to hold the polls.
The municipal House began half an hour late at around 11.30 am. After mayoral poll, election to the posts of deputy mayor and six members of the standing committee will be held, presided by the new mayor.
Before voting began, pro-tem presiding officer Satya Sharma said, “I appeal to all to maintain order in the House, as we are representative of the people”.
She also announced that pen and mobile phone are prohibited in the ballot area.
Last week, Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena gave his nod to convene the municipal House for holding the mayoral election following the apex court order.
The top court on February 17 had ordered the issuance of a notice within 24 hours for convening the first meeting of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to fix the date of elections for the mayor, the deputy mayor and the members of the standing committee of the civic body.
The court issued the order after hearing a plea moved by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) mayoral candidate Shelly Oberoi, who had sought an early conduct of the election.
The AAP had emerged as a clear winner in the December 4 MCD polls, bagging 134 wards and ending the BJP’s 15-year rule in the civic body. The BJP won 104 wards to finish second, while the Congress won nine seats in the 250-member municipal House.
During the proceedings of the House on Wednesday, AAP councillor Shweta Nigam was allowed to vote early on request, due to ill-health.
BJP MLA Anil Bajpai came to the House in a wheelchair to cast his vote due to health issues.
According to the Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act, 1957, the mayor and the deputy mayor are to be elected in the very first session of the House after the civic polls.
However, it has been more than two months since the municipal elections were held on December 4.
A month after the municipal polls, the House had convened for the first time on January 6. It was adjourned following acrimonious exchanges among members of the BJP and the AAP.
The second and third meetings on January 24 and February 6 also failed to carry out the exercise, and were both adjourned without electing a mayor, triggering much political bickering among parties in the two months since the civic polls.
The crisis also impacted the annual budget proceedings and the schedule of taxes for 2023-24 was passed by the Special Officer of the MCD on February 15, since the deliberative wing has not come into place.
According to the direction from the Lt Governor, the House convened on Wednesday is a reconvening of the adjourned first House on January 6.
Both the BJP and AAP members have held each other responsible for the derailment of the proceedings.
After January 24, the municipal House in Delhi had convened again on February 6 as the city hoped to get a mayor.
It, however, failed to elect a mayor for the third time in a row following ruckus over the decision to allow aldermen to vote, even as the AAP had alleged a “planned conspiracy” by the BJP to stall the process and said it would move the Supreme Court to seek a “court-monitored” election.
The petitioner, Oberoi, had moved the apex court on February 7.
A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala, during a hearing on Friday, directed that the election of the Delhi mayor shall be conducted at the first MCD meet and once elected, the mayor shall preside over the deputy mayor’s election.
The AAP had emerged as a clear winner in the December 4 polls, bagging 134 wards and ending the BJP’s 15-year rule in the civic body. The BJP won 104 wards to finish second, while the Congress won nine seats in the 250-member municipal House.
The electoral college for the election of mayor comprises the 250 elected councillors, seven Lok Sabha and three Rajya Sabha MPs from Delhi and 14 MLAs.
The Delhi Assembly Speaker has nominated 13 AAP and one BJP member to the House.
The total number of votes in the mayoral polls are 274. The numbers game favours the AAP, which has 150 votes against the BJP’s 113.