- Election Commission sacked 20 Aam Aadmi Party lawmakers
- They were accused of holding offices of profit
- If 20 MLAs are deemed sacked, by-elections will have to be called
Three days ago, President Ram Nath Kovind said the 20 Aam Aadmi Party lawmakers stand sacked because they held offices of profit. His decision was based on the recommendation of the Election Commission, which said that by serving as parliamentary secretaries, the lawmakers had crossed the line that bans them from any perks or financial benefits that accompany government positions.
A government post is considered out of bounds for lawmakers because they could then skew towards the executive. Parliamentary secretaries assist ministers; several states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have amended laws that allow lawmakers to perform this function. The Delhi government had also passed a similar bill in the assembly but it did not receive the Lieutenant Governor's nod, and so, could not become law.
If the 20 lawmakers are deemed sacked, by-elections will have to be called for their seats - that's over a third of Delhi's 70 seats which means this exercise would turn into a mini-election. AAP has recently lost a string of elections including for municipal bodies. AAP has 66 of the 70 seats - so its majority could decline but the government will not be in danger even if it performs poorly in the election.
But a bad result would weaken Mr Kejriwal's moral and political authority at a time when his party is seen as vulnerable to fissures after his falling out with another popular leader, Kumar Vishwas.
Raghav Chadha and Sanjay Singh, senior AAP leaders, say the Election Commission is acting on behalf of the BJP in a blatant misuse of power.
The party insists that its lawmakers drew no salary or perks as parliamentary secretaries and so there is no question of their having held offices of profit.
Mr Kejriwal had in 2015, appointed 21 AAP lawmakers as parliamentary secretaries soon after his party swept the Delhi assembly elections. A lawyer and later, the Congress, petitioned the Election Commission to disqualify them.
The High Court later cancelled their appointment as Delhi's Lieutenant Governor, the capital's administrative head had not cleared them. One of the MLAs resigned last year.
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