DELHI Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Saturday that the 20 AAP MLAs held guilty by the Election Commission of holding office of profit would appeal to the President to hear the party’s views, against the “undemocratic” and unconstitutional” move.
Under the law, President Ram Nath Kovind is bound by the EC’s view on matters of office of profit and, therefore, the disqualification of the MLAs seems inevitable.
CM Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting Saturday afternoon with the 20 MLAs, along with senior party members Gopal Rai, Ashish Khetan, Dilip Pandey, Pankaj Gupta, Satyendra Jain and Raghav Chadha. AAP leaders said the meeting was held to flesh out the party’s strategy. Sources said Kejriwal’s message to the MLAs was to “prepare for bypolls” and guard against “attempts at poaching”, including from within.
Reiterating that the MLAs had not been given a chance to present their point of view to the EC, Sisodia, who addressed the press conference after the meeting, said, “This opinion that the EC appears to have given is unconstitutional, wrong and undemocratic. Our 20 MLAs are asking the President for time and they will go and convey to him that if such an opinion has come from the EC, then it is a very biased opinion, against the principles of natural justice, done without any hearing, without asking for evidence from the legislators or speaking to their witnesses.”
Sisodia added that the legislators would appeal to the President to “send the opinion back to the EC and ask it to give a chance to the legislators to present their view, get evidence from them and speak to their witnesses, and only then present its opinion”.
Sisodia alleged that the EC order was a “BJP conspiracy” aimed at disrupting the party’s government at “the exact time that it was getting into the fourth gear, with key policies”. “The BJP has a problem with this… The most important policy that is coming up is the doorstep delivery of government services to homes… They want to stop this, so that the government can’t work.”
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He alleged that the BJP was also attempting to stop governance by “pushing Delhi into elections”. “The BJP wants that the next few months will get spent in Assembly polls (for the 20 seats), then preparations for the Lok Sabha elections, and then again, the Delhi Assembly elections in 2019.”
The EC is learnt to have sent its opinion regarding disqualification of the MLAs to the President on Friday. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) A K Joti, who is set to retire in two days, has so far refused to comment, citing the quasi-judicial nature of the proceedings.
A party leader present at the meeting with Kejriwal said, “The message was clear from him: ‘Prepare for the worst’. The different outcomes that were possible were discussed. We are hopeful that the court of the President will see our side. But we are also taking into account that the BJP and some members within the AAP will restart the poaching process, try and pressure these 20 MLAs to join the BJP.”
Sources said that Kejriwal also told the 20 MLAs — some of whom are recognised by the party as close to the leadership — to renew efforts on the ground in their respective Assembly constituencies.
The meeting reportedly also discussed rebel AAP leaders. “Two MLAs have been suspended — Kapil Mishra, who is openly working for the BJP, and Asim Ahmed Khan. But there are at least four more who are dissident,” said a source while adding that the party has been in touch with the dissident leaders for the past few months anticipating this very eventuality.
Six of the 20 AAP MLAs had sought an immediate stay on the EC decision on Friday, but the Delhi High Court had declined to pass any interim order and said it would hear the matter on Monday.
Sisodia said, “I am extremely hopeful that we will get justice from the court. But even if that is not the case, the biggest court of law are the people themselves. We have faith in them.”
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