The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is at loggerheads with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) over the mayoral election, may end up losing the executive control of the civic body despite having secured a majority in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls.
AAP’s mayoral candidate Shelly Oberoi has moved the Supreme Court, demanding the civic body head polls be held “immediately” and that aldermen, who have been nominated by Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, not be given voting rights, as per law. AAP alleged that the nominated aldermen are all members of the BJP.
However, the election of the mayor is not the only worry for the Arvind Kejriwal-led party. The councillors will not just elect the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, but also six of the 18 members of MCD’s Standing Committee, which is the main cause of AAP’s worry.
According to a report by Indian Express, while Mayor is the nominal head of the civic body as their power is limited to calling special meetings of the House, disqualification of members if they do not furnish details of their assets, and declaring quorum for the House to convene sittings.
However, it is the Standing Committee which has executive powers. The 10-member committee holds the right to approve financial grants for projects, appoint sub-committees on various issues, hold discussions related to and the finalisation of policies to be implemented, and form regulations, according to the IE report.
The chairperson and a deputy chairperson of the committee are elected from among its members. Therefore, to have the political party control policy and financial decisions related to the civic body, it is important for AAP to have a clear majority in the standing committee.
As per the report, six members of the committee are elected in the MCD house directly, after the mayoral elections. Mayoral elections have also been stalled twice on January 6 and 24 following adjournments of the house due to ruckus created by AAP and BJP leaders.
The formula to elect the members is based on the preferential system in which the councillor getting the first 36 votes wins. The remaining 12 members are chosen by 12 Ward Committees belonging to each of the 12 MCD zones.
In case Congress abstains from voting for the six members, BJP may win at least half of the 18 Standing Committee seats. In the best-case scenario, BJP may end up winning 10 out of 18 seats of the Standing Committee.
As per law, all elected councillors in the House have voting rights to elect the six Standing Committee members. The councillor getting the first 36 votes wins. The Aldermen don’t play a role in these elections.
In case Congress decides to vote, then as per the preferential formula, AAP would easily get three seats out of 6 seats as it has a majority of 134 members in the house.
In this case, BJP may have had trouble as it would need 108 councillors to get the same number of seats. BJP has 104 elected councillors and the support of one independent.
This way, AAP is likely to win 4 and BJP 2 seats in the standing committee.
The trouble for AAP starts if Congress abstains to vote. With Congress walking out, the preferential system will change and one member will be elected based on the first 35 votes. This gets BJP the magic figure of three members since it has 105 councillors on its side. AAP will be able to win only three.
The remaining 12 members of the standing committee are elected by 12 Ward Committees of each MCD zones. It is here that the role of nominated Aldermen becomes central.
In the recently concluded MCD elections, AAP won 134 out of 250 wards, giving it the majority in 8 of the 12 zones. BJP, meanwhile, has a majority in the four zones.
Now, Aldermen may alter this equation. Each Ward Committee includes all elected councillors from the area, as well as any Aldermen nominated by the LG. A total of 10 Aldermen can be nominated but there is no set number to be nominated from a particular ward. All 10 can be nominated from a single ward if the administrator so wants.
Of the 10 Aldermen, four have been nominated from the Civil Lines Zone, four from the Narela zone, and two from the Central zone.
This means the AAP will no longer have a majority in the Civil Lines Zone and Narela zone with the inclusion of the Aldermen’s vote. The party is also likely to face a tight contest in the Central zone.
Now if the Aldermen vote, AAP, which would have easily won eight out of the 12 Standing Committee members, may get six at the most. The number may fall to five if it loses the Central zone.
The Anti-Defection law does not apply in MCD, therefore, the cross-voting is not penalised. The voting is done through a secret ballot, which means that councillors are free to choose any member for mayoral as well as a standing committee, irrespective of a party’s directions.