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Talk Point: Can the disqualification of 20 Delhi MLAs trigger public sympathy for AAP?

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20 AAP MLAs were disqualified by the nation’s President for holding an office of profit. Now they have withdrawn their plea from the Delhi High Court asking that their disqualification be put on hold.

ThePrint asks: Can the disqualification of 20 Delhi MLAs trigger public sympathy for AAP?

Disqualification is a result of AAP’s greed, and is justified

Satish Upadhyay
Former president of the Delhi BJP and member of BJP’s national executive committee

What has happened with the Aam Aadmi Party is a result of its greed, and is completely justified. When someone occupies a constitutional post, they must abide by the laws that have been laid down. You have to work according to the Constitution. Even legal experts counselled AAP against these appointments.

It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to keep a check on whether or not parties are following the constitutional mandate. Arvind Kejriwal has always claimed to be honest and straightforward in his dealings, but by appointing his MLAs to an office of profit, he has shown otherwise. That is greed and corruption, not the righteous path he claims to walk.

Another such case, the Rogi Kalyan Samiti, where similar appointments have been made, is pending judgment by the Election Commission. By using government funds, whether to buy furniture worth Rs 10-12 lakh or to have office spaces and cars, an office of profit has been claimed. All these unlawfully appointed MLAs will have to face the law and justify their appointments.

Moreover, Delhi law doesn’t permit the appointment of parliamentary secretaries. Delhi only has partial statehood; it can appoint a Chief Minister, but not much else. The government must realise it has limited rights. It has to work in tandem with the Lieutenant Governor appointed by the President.

AAP often likes to play the victim card. It has been shouting hoarse about how no one lets it work. But considering that it has education, women’s security, and health sectors in its control, why doesn’t it focus on that? Most of its policies have focussed on immediate gratification, not long-term measures.

It has completed three years in government, and people see that it has failed to live up to its promises and have only worked for its greed. The people of Delhi aren’t likely to sympathise with AAP; they are more likely to be outraged at the extent of its corruption.

Rules have been interpreted harshly, but that won’t lead to sympathy

Sanjay Kumar
Professor and director at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

There are two murky issues at play here — one, the appointment of 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, and two, the Election Commission’s hearing.

The Aam Aadmi Party has asserted that 21 MLAs were appointed as parliamentary secretaries (one MLA later resigned). However, it claims that none of these MLAs received any of the perks that the job entails. The immediate concern raised here is that if there is a letter of appointment that states that these people were slotted to receive the benefits of this office, then whether they received it or not is of little consequence. In this case, AAP is at fault.

Then again, parliamentary secretaries have been appointed across different states. Their appointments have not been challenged. If viewed from that perspective, injustice has been meted out to AAP. The law should be the same for everyone — BJP, Congress, AAP — and there should be no exceptions.

In this situation, it doesn’t seem like AAP is playing the victim card. On paper, it is the victim. One has never heard of MLAs being disqualified, that too 20 of them. The rules have never been interpreted as harshly as is being done in this case. The decision does not seem neutral. I think these MLAs should get a chance to present their case in the court of law.

Then there is the question of timing. The Chief Election Commissioner passed the judgment one day before he was slotted to retire. Any discerning, objective individual who knows of his proximity to the current regime will view his last judgment skeptically.

AAP’s chances of gaining sympathy because of the disqualification of the MLAs are negligible, because the likely sympathisers — the upper/middle class — already seems to be unhappy with it. Most of its promises have not been fulfilled, and AAP is now like any other party.

But that does not mean AAP has lost its support base all together; it still remains popular among the poorer sections of Delhi society. The work which the AAP government has done in the field of education and health has benefited these voters, and they still form a solid vote bank for the party.

If there would be any sympathy, it would go in favour of AAP and not any other party. AAP would still have a very good chance of retaining many of these 20 seats, which might witness by-elections soon.

EC delayed decision to help AAP-BJP collusion in Rajya Sabha polls

Sharmistha Mukherjee
Chief spokesperson, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee

The disqualification of AAP MLAs will definitely not generate public sympathy for AAP. Though the AAP is trying to take people for a ride, the people of Delhi are intelligent enough to see through their machinations.

According to the GNCTD Act, you can appoint only one parliamentary secretary and that too, attached to the chief minister’s office.

They talk about Ajay Maken, who himself was appointed as parliamentary secretary to Shiela Dikshit in 1999. But AAP appointed 21 parliamentary secretaries, in a clear violation of the law.

Even in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee wanted to appoint parliamentary secretaries in 2015. The Calcutta High Court struck down this decision of the West Bengal government.

AAP has argued that its MLAs didn’t receive pecuniary benefits and hence cannot be accused of holding ‘office of profit’. In the Jaya Bachchan vs. Union of India (2006) case, the court ruled that even if the person doesn’t take any remuneration and there are benefits attached to the office, that person will be deemed to be holding ‘office of profit’.

Sonia Gandhi didn’t wait for the EC results and resigned and sought a fresh mandate from her constituency. The AAP government was formed on high ethics and morals. Instead of knocking at the doors of the court, it should knock on the doors of the people and seek a fresh mandate.

The parliamentary secretaries did avail benefits, as the government notification appointing them said that these MLAs would be given cars and offices. Soon thereafter, the PWD renovated their offices and Rs 11.75 lakh was spent on the furniture.

It is trying to play the victim card even though it has clearly violated the law.

In eight months, there were 11 sittings where all the evidence was properly examined, and as Congress was also party to the petition, we witnessed that evidence presented by each side was given due consideration.

Instead of blaming it, AAP should actually thank the EC. If the BJP, through the EC, wanted to create trouble for AAP, it would have declared this before the Delhi Rajya Sabha polls. Considering the dissent within AAP, it would have immediately split the party. With just 11 MLAs left, the AAP would not have been able to send a single nominee to the Rajya Sabha, instead of three.

Why did the EC postpone the announcement of the disqualification? This postponement helped AAP send its nominees to the Rajya Sabha, one of whom happens to be very closely associated with the BJP.

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