The Union cabinet approved on Tuesday lieutenant governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung's report recommending the dissolution of Delhi assembly, paving the way for fresh elections in the national capital and ending an eight-month-long political uncertainty.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "The Union cabinet recommended dissolution of the Delhi assembly with immediate effect," a senior Union minister said.
After meeting leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday evening, Jung sent his report on the latest political situation to President Pranab Mukherjee and the home ministry. All the parties said they were in favour of fresh elections as none had the requisite numbers to form a stable government in Delhi.
The BJP and its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have 29 MLAs in the 70-member House, down from 32 after three legislators were elected to the Lok Sabha. The AAP has 27 members, and the Congress eight.
Delhi has been under the President's Rule since February following the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government's resignation after 49 days in office.
The Election Commission (EC) is now expected to cancel the November 25 bypolls to three assembly constituencies.
BJP leaders will hold a meeting later on Tuesday to chalk out their strategy for the fresh polls, which will now take place just a year after the December 2013 assembly elections.
The Delhi BJP said its stand on government formation was clear since December, stressing that it would never engage in horse-trading to come to power in the national capital.
After the results of the assembly polls last year, the then Delhi BJP chief, Harsh Vardhan, had declined to form a government, saying the party did not have the required numbers.
This time, the saffron party is likely to have an edge in Delhi following its impressive win in the Lok Sabha elections — it won all seven seats in the national capital — and its successes in the recent assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra.
"BJP is fully prepared for elections in Delhi. We believe in collective leadership. We will fight elections in Delhi like we did in Maharashtra and Haryana," Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay said.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said the party had always been in favour of holding fresh assembly polls, ANI reported.
"It's good, Congress has always wanted fresh elections in Delhi. We welcome this," Dikshit told ANI.
AAP leader Manish Sisodia said on Tuesday this time his party will appeal to the people of Delhi to make them win the assembly elections by a majority so that they can relieve them of the "troubles" which they have been facing for the past eight months.
A lot is at stake for the AAP in Delhi. After its dismal showing in the April-May general elections - the party contested more than 400 seats and won just four - it is desperate to retain its foothold in Delhi. Positive response to Kejriwal's recent rallies is believed to have given the AAP a shot in the arm.
The Congress, however, does not seem to be in a position to dictate terms following its drubbing in the general elections and the subsequent defeats in assembly elections.
After the AAP government's resignation, Jung had not favoured dissolution of the assembly as recommended by the council of ministers headed by Arvind Kejriwal and kept the assembly in suspended animation.
The L-G had last month sent a report to the President, seeking permission to invite the BJP to form a government in Delhi.
The Centre last week informed the Supreme Court that the President allowed Jung to invite the BJP.
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, had time and again accused the L-G of favouring the BJP, accusing him of encouraging "horse-trading".
Hearing an AAP petition seeking early dissolution of the assembly, the Supreme Court court had asked the L-G to explore the possibility of forming a government by November 11.
Elections likely in Jan-Feb
Meanwhile, EC sources ruled out the possibility of holding elections for 70-member Delhi elections with that of Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.
“I don’t think that can happen,” an EC functionary said, adding that it needs to do some ground work before announcing elections in a state. “We don’t have enough time to do the background work for holding Delhi polls with the two states.”
The polls in the two states are being held in five-phases and counting of votes will take place on December 23.
Time is a constraint because the Supreme Court’s had prescribed a mechanism, according to which, the gap between announcement of polls and vote should be about 40 days.
And before making the announcement the Election Commission has to give time to the chief electoral officer to update electoral rolls, notify returning officers and prepare election management plan. “We also have to give some time to the political parties to prepare for polls and consult them,” an EC official explained.
Once the EC receives the notification from the government on dissolution of the Delhi assembly, it will formally start the consultation process for conducting polls with the government bodies and the political parties, the commission sources said. The notification will be issued by President once L-G recommends dissolution of the assembly.
The elections are expected to be held in end January or early February before the President’s rule comes to an end in the Capital.
The government believes that holding the elections during that period would be conducive as the January chill in the Capital will ease out.
(with agency inputs)
Watch:Sisodia says fight between AAP and BJP