The arrest of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs Somnath Bharti and Amanatullah Khan recently have raised a chorus by AAP supporters of alleged conspiracy against the party and its elected leaders. The proportion of AAP legislators arrested since after the party came to power is now tending towards the ridiculous. Its likely no other government in Delhi, or any other state for that matter, has had such a high proportion of its legislators in jail. An astounding 12 out of 67 elected AAP MLAs have now made the trip to prison. To add to this, at least 21 stand the risk of being disqualified in the irregular appointments of parliamentary secretaries issue.
Twelve MLAs -Somnath Bharti, Amanatullah Khan, Sharad Chauhan, Naresh Yadav, Dinesh Mohaniya, Jitendra Singh Tomar, Prakash Jarwal, Commando Surender Singh, Manoj Kumar, Akhilesh Tripathi, Mahendra Yadav and Jagdeep Singh- have all been arrested over the past few months. AAP MLA Somnath Bharti was arrested on Thursday for misbehaving with the workers at the capital’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
AAP leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, have alleged that the Delhi Police and the Bharatiya Janata Party are targeting them and trying to cut down their numbers in the Assembly. Till the time the AAP proves its allegations, it doesn’t carry much weight. However, the party’s position in the Assembly does in fact seem to be weakening.
AAP claimed before both elections it fought in Delhi that it will choose poll candidates with a clean record. But now Delhi is finding it hard to digest that so many AAP legislators are finding their way into prison. The numbers are simply baffling as at least 15 per cent of the assembly’s MLAs being arrested in under two years.
Interestingly, an Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) analysis of election affidavits filed by AAP MLAs in 2015, found 23 out of 67 had declared criminal cases against them. Even after they came to power, several AAP MLAs were accused and arrested on charges of committing crimes of different kinds. The offenses range from assault, domestic violence, desecration of religious texts to culpable homicide.
Kejriwal has always rushed to defend his party’s legislators. Barring one case when Somnath Bharti was arrested on charges of domestic violence, the AAP has termed the arrests part of a witchhunt. It is for all to see how the party manages its damage control. However, they may deserve some benefit of doubt. Just like the party, its arrests record is also one of its kind in India’s politics.