In a massive blow to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Election Commission has recommended to the President that 20 legislators of his Aam Aadmi Party be disqualified for holding offices of profit as parliamentary secretaries, sources said today.
AAP legislators, who had moved the Delhi High Court earlier today, did not get interim relief. The court posted the matter for Monday.
Once the President approves the EC’s recommendation, by-elections will have to be held for the 20 assembly seats. The ruling AAP has a giant majority in the 70-member Delhi assembly with 66 seats and the disqualification will not endanger the Arvind Kejriwal government. It will come down to 46 seats, still comfortably across the half-way mark at 35.
“This is Modi’s Election Commission,” said AAP’s Saurabh Bharadwaj. “We did not take a single penny, did not enjoy any privileges. File an RTI and see what have we ever got from the government. The irony is that Haryana is allowed to have parliamentary secretaries but Delhi isn’t allowed,” said Alka Lamba, one of the 20 MLAs who face disqualification.
A former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) pointed to the Commission’s order of June 23, 2017, to support AAP’s argument.
“That order clearly states that the EC will continue hearing the office-of-profit case against the legislators even though the Delhi High Court had set aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries. So what happened after that?”
The EC did not hold a single hearing on the case after its order of June 23, 2017. In fact, the order clearly states that “the Commission will intimate the next date of hearing to all the concerned parties in the present proceedings in due course”.