Disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs shows pressure on constitutional institutions

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The CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax have attracted allegations that they are working under the influence of the government. In the past also they surrendered themselves to the powers that be, but now it seems they have offered their services on a platter, or have been forced to do, to those at the helm of affairs. Political rivals are being harassed as never before. The dark aspect gets even darker when one sees that even constitutional institutions like the Election Commission is serving the cause of the ruling party. In the recent past, the Election Commission announced dates of assembly election of Himachal Pradesh but delayed the same for Gujarat and meanwhile the state government announced welfare measures as the polls were critically important for the ruling party. Even after moving heaven and hell, the ruling party could only save its face in the state by grabbing victory by the skin of its teeth. Now the Election Commission, a day before the retirement of its chief commissioner, recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs who were holding the post of Parliamentary Secretary. Being a legislator, they cannot hold any post of benefit. The Delhi government replied twice to the objection raised by the commission that they are not enjoying any benefit, but there was no response. All of a sudden the decision was taken on disqualification.

The office of the President took immediate action and gave its nod without waiting for the court action on the appeal of the AAP against the Election Commission. The opposition parties said it was unjust and dictatorial. The President could have sought the opinion of the Law Ministry, but it okayed the disqualification. The AAP that inflicted a crushing defeat on the BJP by winning 67 out of 70 seats of Delhi Assembly was known for confrontations with the Lt Governor, the representative of the centre.

Parliamentary post is not new for Delhi government. Previously Sheela Dikshit also held these posts. Many Congress and BJP governments have these posts. Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan governments also have Parliamentary Secretaries. So the question arises why the AAP government was made the victim. How does the legitimacy of Parliamentary Secretaries change with the party ruling in the state. The Election Commission should apply the law without any bias and prejudice. The manner in which the AAP legislators were disqualified without a proper hearing and sending its recommendation to the President on the eve of the retirement of the Election Commissioner, leaves so many questions unanswered.

The AAP approached the Delhi High Court, but the plea was withdrawn as it was submitted before the nod given by the President. Now a fresh appeal has to be made. Irrespective of the court verdict, the AAP has now appeared as a victim. If elections were held, the party’s first slogan would be that it did not get natural justice. The appointment of the Parliamentary Secretaries could have been made null and void, instead of disqualifying the sitting MLAs. The decision seems harsh, unwarranted and hasty. No doubt the party had not won the people’s favour in Goa, Punjab and Gujarat elections, but in Delhi it can get the sympathy of the people. The Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal can expose the machination of the ruling party to weaken his government. His performance will no doubt be taken into consideration, but it will not be a verdict on his government because the AAP is maintaining majority in the House. It is also a fact that many a friction in the Delhi ruling party is the handy work of the BJP.

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