AAP may remain in power despite MLAs' disqualification; office of profit case will make voters rally behind Arvind Kejriwal
The office of profit case may just be what Arvind Kejriwal needs to rally AAP cadre and volunteers around his leadership in the fight against this selective targeting by government institutions
As per news reports, Election Commission has recommended disqualification of 20 MLAs belonging to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in an alleged 'office of profit' case. The Opposition in Delhi Assembly is demanding Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation. All this has come at a time when rift inside the party became apparent due to Kapil Mishra’s exit and denial of Rajya Sabha ticket to Kumar Vishwas. Some TV news channels are already predicting snap polls in Delhi. Is the situation as grim for AAP as some reports have projected?
Some facts. AAP has 66 MLAs in the 70-member Delhi Assembly with BJP at 4. Even after the disqualification of these 20 MLAs, the party will have a brutal majority in the Assembly with 46 MLAs in a reduced house strength of 50. Even after assuming that AAP loses all the 20 seats in the re-elections (very low probability in my opinion), the party will enjoy a comfortable majority with 10 more MLAs than the required 36.
Actually, this crisis couldn't have come at a better time for Kejriwal. He has been accused of selling Rajya Sabha seats and giving it to outsiders who just joined the party. This crisis will help Kejriwal unify the party around him. The Delhi chief minister will now claim to be the victim, and the party cadre and volunteers will rally around his leadership 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 the constant meddling from the Lieutenant Governor 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. The ED has filed cases against AAP for receiving foreign funding when BJP has already been convicted for receiving foreign funds from a high court. All this will give credence to AAP’s theory that the central government is trying to destabilise the Kejriwal government and Narendra Modi-Amit Shah have still not recovered from the massive loss in Delhi.
Most ruling parties in states have appointed parliamentary secretaries and other posts like the president and vice president of government boards and institutions. This is done to keep MLAs happy as the number of ministers cannot be more than 15 percent of the house strength (by the way, for Delhi it is 10 percent only). The 'office of profit' positions are also given to shift the expenditure of senior MLAs who could not be accommodated in the government, from individual/party to the state exchequer. So how is it that what AAP did was wrong? The Opposition alleges AAP is on the wrong side because it claimed to be a 'party with a difference'. This argument proves that the 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 leader and 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 nine ministers. So, it placated almost all its MLAs by appointing them as secretaries. These MLAs had to resign after a high court quashed their appointment. The court has also recommended to the state governor to disqualify these MLAs.
The EC’s order is not the final word and there is likely to be a big legal battle ahead. Even in the case of a re-election, AAP would win a few seats back in a worst-case scenario and still enjoy the majority. This will allow AAP to have a debate in public court on the subject of office of profit. Approaching the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with this incident will help AAP position itself back and improve its tally in the Lower House of the Parliament. AAP thrives on politics of confrontation and this will help rejuvenate the party.
AAP, however, has to be wary of Kapil Mishra and the Kumar Vishwas gang. The ruling party at the Centre could reinitiate attempts to poach AAP MLAs and bring the government down. However, that is not easy because of the party's sheer big size and anti-defection laws. Any such attempts will only bolster Kejriwal’s prospects in the upcoming elections.
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