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As per news reports, Election Commission has recommended President to disqualify 20 MLAs belonging to AAP in ‘office of profit’ case. Opposition is demanding Kejriwal’s resignation. It appears that all this has come at a wrong time after rift in the party due to Kapil Mishra’s exit and denial of Rajya Sabha ticket to Kumar Vishwas. Some channels are already predicting snap polls in Delhi.
Some facts. AAP has 66 MLAs in a 70 member house with BJP at 4. Even after the disqualification of these 20 MLAs, party has brutal majority with 46 MLAs in a reduced house strength of 50. Assuming AAP loses all seats in re-elections (very low probability in my opinion), AAP will enjoy a comfortable majority, 10 more MLAs than required 36.
Actually, this couldn’t have come at a better time for Kejriwal. This will help unify the party around him as AAP will now play the role of a victim. Party cadre and volunteers will rally around his leadership because to fight against this selective targeting by government institutions. It will also gain sympathy from voters of Delhi and help it in recovering some of the lost ground.
Delhi voters have been witness to constant meddling from LG in AAP’s attempts in managing the affairs of the state. The party has been fined for carrying advertisements in other states when most governments also give ads in papers outside their states. ED has filed cases against AAP for receiving foreign funding when BJP has already been convicted for receiving foreign funds from High Court. All this will give credence to AAP’s theory that central government is trying to destabilize Kejriwal’s government and Modi-Shah have still not recovered from the massive loss in Delhi.
Most ruling parties in states have appointed Parliamentary Secretaries and other posts like President / Vice President of government boards / institutions. This is done to keep MLAs happy as number of ministers cannot be more than 15% of house strength (by the way for Delhi it is 10% only). These ‘office of profit’ positions are given to keep MLAs happy and shift expenditure of senior MLAs who could not be accommodated in government to shift expenditure from individual / party to state exchequer. So how is what AAP did wrong? Opposition alleges that AAP is on the wrong side because it claimed to be a party with a difference. This argument proves that opposition accepts that they regularly do these type of wrong things and it is perfectly okay for them to do so.
For example, in Meghalaya, Congress Chief Minister Mukul Sangma appointed 18 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. Congress won 29 seats in a house of 60. As per rules it could have only 9 ministers. So it placated almost all its MLAs by this act. These MLAs had to resign after High Court quashed their appointment. The Court has also recommended to the Governor to disqualify these MLAs.
EC’s order is not the final word and there is likely to be a big legal battle ahead. Even in case of re-elections AAP would win a few seats back in a worse-case scenario and still enjoy majority. This will allow AAP to have a debate in public court on office of profit topic. The Lok Sabha elections approaching this will help party to position itself back and improve its tally in lower house. AAP thrives on politics of confrontation and this will help rejuvenate party.
AAP has to be wary of Kapil Mishra and Kumar Vishwas gang. Ruling party at centre could reinitiate attempts to poach its MLAs and bring the government down. However, that is not easy because of its sheer big size and anti-defection laws. Any such attempts will only bolster Kejriwal’s prospects in 2018 and 2020.
(This article first appeared in FirstPost.)