President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday approved the disqualification of 20 Delhi MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party. On Saturday, the Election Commission had written to Kovind asking him to disqualify the 20 MLAs for holding offices of profit while occupying the posts of parliamentary secretaries.
The 20 legislators who have been disqualified are – Kailash Gehlot, Naresh Yadav, Som Dutt, Praveen Kumar, Nitin Tyagi, Adarsh Shastri, Sajeev Jha, Jarnail Singh, Sukhvir Singh, Madan Lal, Sarita Singh, Alka Lamba, Manoj Kumar, Avtar Singh, Vijendar Garg Vijay, Rajesh Gupta, Sharad Kumar and Shiv Charan Goel.
AAP has 66 legislators in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, and thus the disqualification of 20 MLAs will not affect its majority. However, AAP leader Sanjay Singh on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government of trying to “murder democracy”, IANS reported. He claimed that the Election Commission’s decision to disqualify the MLAs was biased.
“The Election Commission is acting like a poll agent of the Bharatiya Janata Party,” he alleged.
Singh added that the letter of appointment given to the AAP MLAs when they became parliamentary secretaries did not mention that it was an office of profit. Singh said that the Delhi High Court, while quashing the appointments, did not cancel the membership of any legislator.
He also claimed that MLAs of other parties held offices of profit in states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The AAP said it would move the high court and Supreme Court if necessary. “We had hoped to go to the President asking him to give us a chance to present ourselves,” AAP minister Gopal Rai told ANI.
Disqualified AAP MLA Alka Lamba said it was “unfortunate” that the president made the decision in “haste” without giving the legislators a chance to speak. “It is an act of the Centre using constitutional institutions,” she said.