It’s that Delhi too will witness three Assembly by-elections at a huge expenditure of the taxpayer’s money despite the House being in limbo, or “suspended animation”, for over eight months.
All because the Centre can’t make up its mind whether to allow the formation of a new government or dissolve the House and call fresh polls. It has been seeking extension after extension in the Supreme Court, which has been telling it that legislators cannot “sit idle” at home at taxpayers’ expense.
Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay Sunday told The Telegraph that a decision would be taken only after government formation in Maharashtra, which suggests the Centre could seek another extension at the next hearing on Tuesday.
The November 25 by-elections will be held because the BJP lawmakers from the Krishna Nagar, Mehrauli and Tughlaqabad Assembly seats were elected to the Lok Sabha on May 26.
A senior Delhi BJP functionary admitted that the government’s indecision had tied the poll panel’s hands, because it has to call by-elections within six months of a seat falling vacant.
“Had the government decided in time to dissolve the Assembly, we could have had full-scale Assembly elections in Delhi along with Kashmir and Jharkhand,” he said.
Since the poll panel unilaterally decides on by-elections, the announcement cannot logically be seen as reflecting a government tilt towards keeping the Delhi House alive.
State BJP chief Upadhyay claimed the party was confident of winning a majority if elections were held now, for “we have a government at the Centre that is delivering on its promises”. But he confirmed that “nothing has been decided”.
“Our central leadership is busy with government formation in Maharashtra. They will decide about Delhi after all this is over,” he said.
Delhi has been under President’s rule since mid-February after the Aam Aadmi Party’s Congress-propped minority government resigned and lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung overruled its recommendation for Assembly dissolution and fresh polls.
On an Aam Aadmi Party plea, the Supreme Court on August 5 gave the Centre five weeks to decide the House’s fate but the Centre has sought and received multiple extensions of the deadline.
On September 4, Jung wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking permission to invite the BJP, the largest single party in the House, to form the government. The President has not yet responded.
Solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar told the five-judge Constitution bench on October 10 that Jung’s proposal to the President was still under consideration. He said the Centre’s stand would be known on October 28.
In a House of 70 (now reduced to 67), the BJP has 28 MLAs and ally Akali Dal has one. The Aam Aadmi Party has 28 and the Congress 8.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta