A meeting to elect a new mayor for Delhi today degenerated into a full-blown brawl between newly elected councilors of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP, who attacked each other and shouted slogans for hours. The meeting ended abruptly after the fight and Delhi remained without a mayor.
In TV visuals, rival workers of AAP and BJP were seen pushing each other down, hurling tables and chairs and even jumping on desks at the Civic Centre, the headquarters of the powerful body responsible for providing civic amenities to more than 11 million people.
Members of both parties claimed injuries in the physical clash. The BJP alleged that its councilor Sharad Kapoor suffered a broken leg. AAP responded with a similar charge. "They (BJP councilors) hit me with an oath-taking memento," alleged AAP's Praveen Kumar.
The protests erupted over nominated MCD members - aldermen of the house - being sworn in before the elected councilors. AAP suspected an attempt to get the nominated members to vote - in violation of rules - and help the BJP, which lost the December civic election after three terms in power.
AAP had earlier objected to Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena naming 10 nominated MCD members without consulting the state government. The BJP retorted that the MCD reports to the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor, so Mr Saxena was well within his rights to nominate members to the civic body.
The clash in the house follows a series of confrontations between AAP and the Lieutenant Governor, who is the Centre's representative in Delhi.
AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Mr Saxena of bypassing and ignoring the elected government.
"The last few weeks have seen some very bizarre developments. The LG (Lieutenant Governor) is directly issuing orders on practically every subject irrespective of whether it is reserved or transferred, irrespective of whether the LG has the powers to do that or not. (He) issues directions directly to the Chief Secretary who in turn gets them implemented completely bypassing and ignoring the elected government," Mr Kejriwal wrote.
Yesterday, Mr Saxena appointed a BJP councilor, Satya Sharma, as temporary Speaker to preside over the mayor's election. AAP had recommended Mukesh Goyal, the senior most councilor in the house, for the post.
"In Delhi MCD, BJP has tried every dirty trick and failed - from delimitation and delaying elections to using their friendly uncle's office to pump up numbers. Their last resort is hooliganism, which you can now see on your TV screens," senior AAP leader Raghav Chadha alleged.
The BJP said AAP lacked faith in its own councilors. "Nobody was trying to make aldermen vote in the House but that doesn't mean they can't be sworn in. Arvind Kejriwal instigated his councilors to create ruckus in the house," said BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor.
Another BJP leader, Parvesh Verma, said: "The nominated members in MCD are called aldermen. Is it possible an alderman does not have voting rights?...Just because they (AAP) won a few more seats doesn't mean they will resort to hooliganism."
AAP has named Shelly Oberoi as its candidate for mayor. The BJP, in an eleventh-hour volte face after earlier announcing it would not fight for the post, put up Rekha Gupta.
The MCD House has 250 elected councilors. The BJP's seven Lok Sabha MPs from Delhi and AAP's three Rajya Sabha members and 14 MLAs nominated by the Delhi Speaker will also participate in the Mayor election.
The Congress, which has nine councilors, decided not to take part in the voting. AAP accused the party of making a deal with the BJP in return for a place in the haj committee of MCD.
AAP won 134 of 250 wards in the first municipal election held after the redrawing of constituencies and the merging of the MCD last year. The BJP finished second with 104 seats.
Though AAP has a clear majority in the MCD, the party fears crossvoting as it is a secret ballot. Though the BJP is unlikely to win the mayor and deputy mayor posts, it will try to win some posts in the important standing committee.