On the first day of Delhi’s fifth legislative Assembly, the contrast could not have been more stark.
As the house assembled after elections that gave no party a clear majority, the old guard of the Congress and BJP shed their differences to laugh and shake hands, while first-time MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party sat looking stoic and diffident, almost like young students on their first day in a new school.
While AAP leaders came in autos, the Metro and hitched rides with friends to reach the Assembly, the Congress and BJP veterans came in their gleaming SUVs and luxury cars.
The AAP’s Akhileshpati Tripathi, MLA from Model Town, said he came by auto, while Somdutt from Sadar Bazar said his friend dropped him to the Vidhan Sabha. By contrast, even newcomers from the BJP such as Anil Kumar Sharma and Pravesh Sahib Singh came in SUVs.
The divergence was evident even within the House.
In the minutes before the session began, Congress and BJP legislators were seen hugging and exchanging warm handshakes, making it difficult sometimes to even identify members and their parties.
But their AAP counterparts, who stood out in their ubiquitous Gandhi caps, seemed hesitant to be a part of what one AAP MLA called a “private club”.
Before the oath ceremony, BJP legislature party leader Harsh Vardhan greeted Congress MLAs and AAP members sitting in the front row. Only a few from AAP responded; most turned away to chat among themselves. Vardhan smiled and returned to his seat.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was the exception. He smiled and shook hands with the BJP and Congress members after taking oath. But some senior MLAs were upset with him as he left the house minutes after taking the oath and not staying for the entire ceremony as required by tradition. Some BJP and Congress MLAs even jeered at AAP MLAs for this discourtesy.
As AAP members began clapping after Kejriwal took his oath, BJP old-timer Naresh Gaur asked them to tap the tables and not clap. “Clapping nahi karte oath pe, table bajate hain. (We do not clap, we tap the table),” he told them.
Law Minister Somnath Bharti was not amused and accused BJP MLAs of patronising the AAP.
“Both the Congress and BJP have stooped so low today. They were chatting and sharing jokes and instructing us as if the floor of the house is their private club,” Bharti said.