President disqualifies 20 AAP MLAs; party says ‘dangerous for democracy’

NEW DELHI, Jan 22: In a major setback to the AAP, President Ram Nath Kovind has disqualified 20 of its MLAs in Delhi for holding offices of profit – a decision the party said showed constitutional authorities were behaving like “handmaid-ens of the central government.”
Kovind gave his assent on Saturday to the recommendation by the Election Commission (EC).
The AAP had approached the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on EC’s recommendation and the court has listed the case for a hearing on Monday.
While the BJP welcomed the president’s decision and demanded Kejriwal’s resignation on moral grounds, the Congress alleged that there was a deal between the BJP and the AAP due to which the EC delayed the disqualification recommendation by a month.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “There was some logic when God gave us 67 seats. The Almighty stood behind us in our every step.
“Otherwise we would have been nothing… Just don’t stray away from the path of truth.”
He told a gathering in Najafgarh, “They are trying to harass us by all means… They got CBI raid done at my office, but after 24-hour search they only found my four mufflers. Our MLAs were arrested.”
“The L-G had called 400 files of our government (pertaining to decisions taken in two years), but when they did not find anything against us… they today disqualified our 20 MLAs.”
BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha backed the AAP.
“President’s order disqualifying the 20 AAP MLAs is complete miscarriage of natural justice. No hearing, no waiting for High Court’s order. It is Tughluqshahi of the worst order,” Yashwant Sinha tweeted.
Shatrughan Sinha said the “politics of vendetta” against the AAP would not last long.
AAP leader Ashutosh said the president’s order is “unconstitutional” and “dangerous for democracy.”
Saurab Bharadwaj, chief spokesperson of the party’s Delhi unit, alleged the chief election commissioner and the election commissioners are expected to behave in an independent and impartial manner and not as “political stooges of their masters who appoint them.”
The EC had on Friday recommended to Kovind that the 20 MLAs were liable for disqualification for holding offices of profit between 13 March, 2015, and 8 September, 2016.
A government notification on Sunday said the president has disqualified 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit.
If AAP fails to get reprieve from the courts, Delhi will have bye-polls for the 20 seats. The only technical aspect was that now the Delhi Assembly Speaker will have to notify the 20 vacancies for the EC to announce the bye-polls.
Once the vacancies are announced by the Assembly, the AAP’s strength would go down to 46 from 66 in the 70-member House. However, it will continue to have a majority to run the state. (PTI)