What next Kejriwal? AAP mulls strategy as 21 MLAs disqualified
- Pranab Mukherjee rejects AAP\'s amendment to Office of Profit law
- This lads to the disqualification of 21 AAP MLAs working as parliamentary secretaries
What this means for AAP
- Disqualification of 21 MLAs could mean by-election in six months\' time
- AAP might however move court to contest this decision
More in the story
Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on
Mondaysuffered a major setback after President Praanab Mukherjee declined to give his nod to an amendment to the Office of Profit law.
The President's disapproval of the amendment has put a question mark on the fate of 21 AAP MLAs who had been appointed parliamentary secretaries by the Delhi government.
The President has sent a letter rejecting the amendment and it seems the Delhi government is likely to move court to oppose the move.
The law clearly states that holding a profit of office is in clear violation of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the letter has been sent to the Delhi government's law department which is contemplating its next move.
AAP lashes out
Soon after the President's disapproval was made public, social media was flooded with reactions on the contentious issue.
Kejriwal lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said "किसी MLA को एक पैसा नहीं दिया, कोई ��--ाड़ी, बं��--ला- कुछ नहीं दिया। सब MLA फ़्री में काम कर रहे थे। मोदी जी कहते- सब घर बैठो, कोई काम नहीं करे��--ा" ( Didn't give money, vehicle, house to any MLA. All MLAs are working and Modiji says everybody to sit at home and don't do any work).
He went on to add that Modi doesn't work and will not let anybody else work before heading off for an emergency party meeting.
Congress leader Ajay Maken was quick to respond and tweeted: "Bill to provide car, office and amenities to 21 AAP MLAs was not only ethically but also procedurally wrong. Thus bill rejected. We welcome it!"
Among the 21 MLAs who had been appointed parliamentary secretaries for the smooth functioning of the government are Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal, Charan Goel, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Gupta, Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, and Jarnail Singh.
What this means for Congress, BJP
Meanwhile, experts state that once the President rejects the Bill, these MLAs stand disqualified forcing by-elections in Delhi.
The prospects of by-elections has Congress and BJP smelling blood, especially the Congress that failed to open its account in the 2015 Assembly elections.
Even the BJP seems excited with the prospect considering that it only has three MLAs in the 70-member assembly and now will get the opportunity to present itself as a credible opposition.
"It is a moral defeat for Kejriwal and the AAP. It is a fall out of the party's dishonesty, anarchist mindset and undemocratic endeavour to keep its flock together by rewarding MLAs," said Vijender Gupta, BJP leader and leader of Opposition in the assembly.
Both national parties are hoping that AAP looses some seats and they can add those to their kitty.
Game of seats
On 13 March, 2015, Delhi chief minister passed an order appointing 21 party MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. These legislators were administered oath by the chief minister's office the same day.
At present, AAP has 67 seats out of 70 and ever since this controversy became public, AAP has been saying that no remuneration was paid and hence it doesn't fall under office of profit category.
Soon after, the Rashtriya Mukti Morcha (RMM) filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court challenging the government's decision.
Calling it a gross violation of Article 239 AA of the Constitution as well as the laws governing the manner in which the Delhi government is run, the petition sought disqualification of these MLAs. The next date of hearing has been set for 13 July.
The Delhi government had passed the controversial bill meant to exclude parliamentary secretaries from the office of profit in 2015 and wanted a retrospective exemption.
In such a scenario, the bill just needed an approval from the President which didn't happen.
A petition was also filed with the President who referred it to the Election Commission (EC) which is still pending.
The EC is yet to take a final call on the disqualification issue and the MLAs in question have been sent a notice to which they have responded.
Reportedly, the MLAs earlier responded to the notices sent by the EC after RMM lawyer Prashant Patel complained to the President and the poll panel.
History repeats itself?
Interestingly, in 2006, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on charges of office of profit had to resign after the Opposition claimed that since she was heading the the National Advisory Council (NAC), she was holding Office of Profit.
Amid these allegations, the Congress president resigned from NAC as well as Lok Sabha MP from Rae Bareli.
Back then, Congress led UPA government was dwelling upon bringing an ordinance to save the Congress president, but the opposition sensed the government's strategy and attacked the UPA.
Sensing trouble Sonia resigned forcing a by-election which she eventually won.
Would Arvind Kejriwal also follow Mrs Gandhi's footsteps and ask his MLAs to step down? Or would he take matters to the court which in all probability could go against him? We will have to wait and watch.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen