The Election Commission today sent its recommendation to President Ram Nath Kovind proposing the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs in the 'office of profit' case.
The Election Commission’s decision to recommend the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs over the ‘office of profit’ case has drawn some sharp criticism for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. While AAP reacted with attacks on the EC and said the poll body had “touched a new low”, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party upped the ante against the Delhi government, saying Kejriwal must step down and that he had lost the moral right to be in power any longer.
AAP leader Ashutosh took to Twitter and charged the EC of acting as “the PMO’s post box”. Contending that the EC had touched a new low with its decision, the AAP leader said, “EC should not be the letterbox of the PMO…but that is a reality today.” Earlier, AAP had reacted to the EC’s decision by raising aspersions on the EC’s propriety and accusing it of acting at the BJP’s behest. “BJP compromising Election Commission. This a BJP-appointed Election Commission. This is (CEC) AK Joti’s last conspiracy before his retirement,” Bharadwaj told reporters.
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As both the BJP and Congress gunned for Kejriwal’s head, six of the disqualified AAP MLAs moved the Delhi High Court contending that the EC’s decision was unilateral and the party’s stand wasn’t even heard. As per TV reports, the court has sought a reply from the EC and the hearing is ongoing.
Meanwhile, the prospects of by-elections to these 20 seats that could be vacated if the decision holds muster in the court, have stirred Delhi’s political arena. Both the Congress and the BJP have come down hard on the Kejriwal government and have said that the chief minister must take moral responsibility and step down.
“Kejriwal doesn’t have the moral right to stay on his post, he must resign. Congress will carry out a ‘jan aandolan’ regarding the same,” said Congress’ Ajay Maken.
While the AAP has sufficient seats to stay in office even if the 20 MLAs are disqualified – it has 66 seats in the 70-member assembly – the 20 seats will see mid-term polls, something that could see the AAP cede some ground to the rival parties whom it had decimated in the 2015 elections. As per the current structure of the Delhi Assembly, AAP will stay in power with 46 MLAs even if 20 of its legislators are shown the door.
However, it is the prospect of ceding space to the BJP and Congress in Delhi, which is AAP’s only stronghold, that should worry the fledgeling party. The party, which claims the high pedestal of anti-corruption and honesty as its virtues will be tested before the public if by-elections are held. Considering its performance in the party’s forays in Punjab and Goa, the possibility of another defeat should worry the AAP.
“From “India against Corruption” to “I am Corruption”, Aam Aadmi Party has covered the journey in a short time. Do they still have the morality to stay in government in Delhi?” Sambit Patra asked in a press conference.
The MLAs facing disqualification include Adarsh Shastri from Dwarka, Alka Lamba from Chandni Chowk, Sanjeev Jha from Burari, Kailash Gehlot from Najafgarh, Vijendra Garg from Rajinder Nagar, Praveen Kumar from Jangpura, Sharad Kumar Chauhan from Narela, Madan Lal Khufiya from Kasturba Nagar, Shiv Charan Goyal from Moti Nagar, Sarita Singh from Rohtas Nagar, Naresh Yadav from Mehrauli, Rajesh Gupta from Wazirpur, Rajesh Rishi from Janakpuri, Anil Kumar Bajpai from Gandhi Nagar, Som Dutt from Sadar Bazar, Avtar Singh from Kalkaji, Sukhvir Singh Dala from Mundka, Manoj Kumar from Kondli and Nitin Tyagi from Laxmi Nagar.