In a blow to Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party, the Election Commission today recommended that the President disqualify 20 of its MLAs for holding office of profit, setting the stage for their ouster from the Assembly.
In an opinion sent to President Ram Nath Kovind this morning, the Election Commission said that the MLAs, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries between March 13, 2015 and Sept. 8, 2016, held the office of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators, claimed highly-placed sources.
The President is bound to go by the recommendation of the commission. Under the rules, petitions to the President seeking disqualification of lawmakers are referred to the EC. The poll panel takes a decision and sends its recommendation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan which is accepted.
In the present case, the petition was made to disqualify 21 MLAs, but one resigned a few months back.
Once the President accepts the opinion, by-elections will have to be held for the 20 Assembly seats.
The AAP has a massive majority in the 70-member Delhi assembly with 65 seats, and the impending disqualification will not endanger the Arvind Kejriwal government though the number of party MLAs will come down to 45.
An angry AAP said that the Election Commission had never “touched this low”, and insinuated that the Prime Minister was behind the action.
The Congress, which ruled the state for a long time, welcomed the EC’s decision, with its Delhi unit chief Ajay Maken saying that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has lost the right to be in power after EC’s decision.
Regretting that the Election Commission allowed ‘undue’ adjournments to AAP MLAs that cost the people of Delhi dearly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari said the party stands prepared for elections ‘any moment.’
“We welcome the EC decision disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs. Arvind Kejriwal should take responsibility for moral defeat and resign,” he said.
There, however, was no official word from the Commission.
When contacted, Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti said that since the matter is sub-judice, he would not offer any comment on the issue.
The 20 MLAs set to be disqualified include, Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Anil Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh) – who is also a minister – Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura).
Others include Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Rajesh Rishi ( Janakpuri), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Sharad Kumar (Narela), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Sukhbir Singh (Mundka), Vijender Garg (Rajinder Nagar) and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar).
Watch this debate with senior AAP leader Ashutosh, KTS Tulsi, Senior Supreme Court Advocate and Rajya Sabha Member from the Congress, and Aditi Phadnis, political editor at Business Standard.