With the Election Commission on Friday recommending disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs for holding an Office of Profit, the BJP and Congress said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had lost the “moral right” to govern.
While the Delhi High Court refused to grant interim relief to the 20 legislators, both the BJP and the Congress started preparing for a snap poll, while Kejriwal was closeted in a meeting with AAP brass till late in the evening.
In its opinion sent to President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday morning, the Election Commission said the MLAs, by occupying the post of Parliamentary secretaries between March 13, 2015 and September 8, 2016, held offices of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators. Parliamentary Secretaries assist ministers with their work.
Numerically, even if the disqualification of the 20 MLAs is approved, the AAP will have a majority in the 70-member Assembly. However, the number of its MLAs will come down to 45 and bye-elections will have to be held.
Party attacks CEC The AAP, on its part, attacked Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti, saying he was “repaying a debt” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before his retirement.
“AK Joti was the Principal Secretary under ( then Gujarat Chief Minister) Narendra Modi and then the Chief Secretary of Gujarat. He is retiring on Monday. So you want to repay Modiji’s debt. You are mortgaging a Constitutional post like the Election Commission,” AAP’s spokesman Saurabh Bharadwaj alleged.
“Many members of the Kejriwal Cabinet have had to resign. Fifteen of their MLAs have cases against them and 12 were arrested under different charges. In this scenario, the biggest question before the people is whether the Kejriwal government has any moral right to remain in power,” said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) President Ajay Maken echoed the BJP’s views. “Kejriwal has no right to continue. Half of his Cabinet ministers removed on corruption charges! 20 MLAs who were enjoying ministerial perks would be disqualified! (sic),” the Congress leader tweeted.
However, West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee came out in support of the AAP. A Constitutional body cannot be used for political vendetta, she said. “The 20 AAP MLAs were not even given a hearing by the Election Commission. Most unfortunate. This goes against the principles of natural justice. At this hour we are strongly with Arvind Kejriwal and his team,” she tweeted.