By Sushil Kutty
Why is it that when certain things (for want of a better word) are constitutionally set and there cannot be two ways about it – also no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’- that such matters are taken to court and the courts, as if this was the first time such a matter had come before them, waste precious court time listening to both sides of the harangue before dismissing the case with the wisdom-laden words “the Constitutional provision is very clear.”
Clear! If there is a loss of words in certain quarters on that, then whose fault is it? But that is for another day and another harangue. For now, suffice to say that nominated aldermen cannot vote in the elections for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi because “the Constitutional provision is very clear”, and well settled.
The Supreme Court orally observed this earlier this week and set a fresh date for the next hearing on the issue. The matter was taken to the top court by AAP leader Shelly Oberoi. “Nominated members cannot go for election. The Constitutional provision is very clear,” the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud said.
And Shelly Oberoi went home happy. Also senior advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Oberoi. Singhvi said Article 243R of the Constitution makes “it very clear” that nominated members cannot vote. Thus Singhvi agreed with CJI DY Chandrachud.
The only person in the room who was not satisfied with the ruling was Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Delhi Lt. Governor. But then, if the constitutional provision on this matter was very well settled, then why the disappointment?
But the CJI’s observation that nominated aldermen cannot vote in the mayoral election triggered a tradeoff of accusations between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. AAP asked the BJP to stop using “unethical methods”. The BJP in turn said it always knew the AAP wanted a postponement of the voting. It was more than apparent that this was one fight that was not going to end anytime soon. The BJP is still to get over the disappointment of losing control of the MCD. The MCD, even if it’s not as rich as the Mumbai municipal body, was important for the grassroots control of Delhi. After losing the MCD, there’s only the Lt. Governor left in the BJP’s kitty.
There have been three attempts to install a mayor of Delhi since the MCD elections in December 2022, which rendered the BJP MCD-less for the first time in 15 years. The fight over whether nominated aldermen could or could not vote has been ongoing. It’s the Lt. Guv who nominates aldermen and the Lt. Governor is the Centre’s chosen one, literally on a leash.
That was reason enough to suspect the Lt. Guv and, therefore, the demand that the settled law on voting for MCD mayoral elections be applied strictly. The Electoral College for the MCD mayoral elections has 250 elected councillors, the seven elected Delhi Lok Sabha MPs, and three Rajya Sabha MPs of Delhi. In addition, there are 13 AAP MLAs and one BJP MLA, all of them nominated by the Speaker of the Delhi Assembly. After the December 2022 MCD elections, the AAP had won 134 wards, and the BJP, 104. The final count of votes for the mayoral polls is 274. The numbers favour AAP. The Congress, for good or bad, is nowhere in the frame.
With 10 nominated aldermen, the BJP’s voting strength would have gone from 113 to 123. But with the Supreme Court stating that who can vote and who cannot vote was a settled matter and nothing more need be said or discussed further on the subject, the fight should end there.
The AAP went to court for a stay on voting. On that limited point, the AAP has succeeded. At least for now. The Supreme Court has set this Friday for the next hearing. Whatever the ruling both the parties to the dispute will have to adhere. Neither party has the right to deprive Delhi its Mayor. The brouhaha, what the AAP called a “shameful act”, over who can and who cannot vote wasn’t needed at all. (IPA Service)