The first session of the new Delhi Assembly began today with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other MLAs taking oath, almost two weeks after their resounding victory in the polls.
Unlike last time, when Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was running a minority government and had only 28 MLAs in the house, it was a different case this time.
Kejriwal occupied the same bench, which he did in the last assembly session, sharing it with his deputy Manish Sisodia while the opposition benches were occupied by three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs.
AAP has 67 MLAs this time while the BJP has been reduced to 3. Due to its strength, the opposition benches too were occupied by AAP MLAs. The oath was administered by protem speaker Fateh Singh, who is AAP’s Gokulpuri MLA.
The confidence was clearly visible this time, not only on the faces of Kejriwal and Sisodia, but also the first-time MLAs. It was more visible with their dressing and body language. Most MLAs drove down to the assembly in their cars — ranging from from SUVs to small hatchbacks.
The visitors gallery was packed with AAP supporters. When Kejriwal was administered oath, he was cheered by his MLAs and supporters from the visitors gallery. After his oath, he also walked down to the opposition bench and shook hands with all the three BJP MLAs.
Apart from Kejriwal, the only person who got an equally loud applause from the MLAs and the visitors was S K Bagga, AAP MLA from Krishna Nagar who defeated BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi.
Interestingly, this time 3 MLAs took oath in Maithali, 3 in English, three in Punjabi, two in Urdu and one in Sanskrit, trying to reflect the linguistic diversity.
Shahdara MLA Ram Niwas Goel was elected the speaker, while Shailmar Bagh MLA Bandana Kumari was elected as the deputy speaker. Both are from the Aam Aadmi Party.
However, the first session of the Assembly also saw an altercation between the speaker and the BJP, following which the opposition accused the government of acting under “brute majority”.
The issue of the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) was also a bone of contention between the government and the opposition.
The two-day assembly session will also feature Lt Governor Najeeb Jung’s address tomorrow.
Meanwhile, confusion over the LoP still prevailed in the house.
“We will not ask for the post of the LoP, but if the speaker offers us we will certainly think about it,” Leader of BJP’s Legislature party Vijender Gupta said.
When asked about the government’s position about the LoP, Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia simply said, “Let’s see”.
After Goel’s election as the speaker, as per the rule book, he first permitted chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia to read out their congratulatory messages.
This was followed by Goel inviting Rohini MLA and Leader of BJP’s Legislature party Vijender Gupta to do the same. However, the speaker objected when Gupta raised the issue of not allowing the media to enter the Delhi Secretariat.
“I want to raise two issues. First, the new government has put restrictions on the media because of which the whole of Delhi is stunned. It is like dictatorship,” Gupta said as he was interrupted by the speaker and some AAP MLAs too started protesting over the comments.
“This is an auspicious moment. This is not the time to raise this issue and even it does not suit you. Even we are here for five years and so are you. You will be allowed to raise the issue.
“I had given you time to speak on the election of the speaker and not this,” Goel said.
Later speaking to reporters, Goel said Gupta was trying to take “political advantage” by twisting the case.