The Election Commission (EC) on Monday (March 27) concluded hearing of the office-of-profit case against 21 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The MLAs were appointed as parliamentary secretaries by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal soon after the AAP came to power in the state in 2015.
The appointment of the MLAs became an issue after the Delhi government amended the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, in June 2015 exempting the parliamentary secretary's position from the application of the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect.
According to the BJP, which is eager to avenge the humiliating loss in the 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi in Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls next month, the Kejriwal government would have to resign before the end of its tenure because of the office of profit case.
"It is possible the Kejriwal government wouldn't stay long. 21 MLAs of AAP can be disqualified by the court for being involved in the office of profit case. There is another petition with the Supreme Court where 16 of their lawmakers fall under the office of profit case. One of their lawmakers (Ved Prakash) joined BJP on Monday. He said that 30-35 AAP MLAs are unhappy with Kejriwal because there is no democracy in AAP. When a female lawmaker raised her hand to speak she was shushed. This is just the beginning, it might happen soon that good people in AAP resign or join BJP," the saffron party's Delhi spokesperson Tajinder Pal Bagga told International Business Times, India.
"The office of profit case is ongoing and the matter can be decided anytime," he added.
AAP is confident
However, the AAP is confident that the people of Delhi approved of the state government and even if 21 MLAs are disqualified, its government would stay for five years. The AAP won an overwhelming 67 seats in the 70-seat Delhi Assembly in 2015, while the BJP could win just three.
The AAP also wanted the Delhi High Court's decision of making the position of parliamentary secretaries for AAP MLAs null and void be dropped. They feared that the case being heard by the EC could be affected by the high court's ruling, though the petitioner, Prashant Patel, said there would be no bearing.
"I am also part of one of the parliamentary secretaries. No decision has been taken yet. The high court has made our position null and void. We are not parliamentary secretaries anymore. Then why is the hearing ongoing, we don't know. The Election Commission will give its decision if there's any point for ongoing hearings when the high court has set aside the position of parliamentary secretaries. I don't think there will be a date for the next hearing soon," AAP MLA Alka Lamba told IB Times, India.
The Delhi High Court set aside the state government's appointment of 21 party MLAs as parliamentary secretaries as they had not taken assent from the Lieutenant Governor. The EC heard the case last on December 16 last year.
The conclusion of the hearing happened on the same day AAP MLA Ved Prakash joined the BJP serving a blow to the AAP, which lost heavily in Goa and Punjab. However, the party is still hopeful.
"Even if 21 AAP MLAs are disqualified, the Kejriwal government is going to be there for five years," Lamba said. "People understand what the BJP did in Uttarakhand, Arunachal, Goa and Manipur, how the MLAs were lured and governments were dismantled. People still have a positive outlook towards the AAP."
The elections for three municipal corporations of Delhi (MCDs) will be held on April 23.