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Delhi: AAP in huddle on 'office of profit' matter; BJP, Congress talk bypolls

The ruling AAP had bagged an impressive 67 seats in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. Since then, two by-elections were held in which the ruling party and the BJP got one seat each.

Published: 20th January 2018 05:56 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st January 2018 01:51 AM   |  A+A-

File Image of BJP flag for Representational Purposes.

By PTI

NEW DELHI: With the sword of disqualification dangling over the heads of 20 of its MLAs, the leadership of the ruling AAP in Delhi today huddled into a meeting to discuss the matter, while the BJP and the Congress smelling blood talked about bypolls in those constituencies.

Emerging from the meeting at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence, senior party leader and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said an appointment has been sought to meet President Ram Nath Kovind to urge his intervention in the matter.

The 20 MLAs, for whom the Election Commission yesterday recommended disqualification as they allegedly held offices of profit, participated in the meeting with Kejriwal, Sisodia, and other senior AAP leaders, and discussed the next course of action.

"The MLAs will urge the president to return the EC's recommendation asking it to hear the legislators and let them present evidence to show they did not held offices of profit," Sisodia said.

"The MLAs were not given opportunity to present the evidence with them. They have a lot to tell and prove that there was no office of profit case. It is unconstitutional and illegal. We are seeking appointment to meet the president and the MLAs will convey him that it is a biased recommendation and against natural justice," he claimed.

In its opinion sent to President Kovind, the EC said the MLAs, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries between March 13, 2015, and September 8, 2016, held offices of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators, highly-placed sources said.

Opposition BJP and Congress, meanwhile, indulged in hectic parleys considering the possibility of bypolls on the 20 seats in case the AAP legislators were disqualified.

Union minister and senior BJP leader Vijay Goel claimed that the AAP legislators were set to loose their seats and his party will "perform grandly" when the bypolls are called.

"Election Commission's recommendation has made disqualification of AAP MLAs a certainty. The BJP will perform grandly in bypolls on these 20 seats," he said in a statement.

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken alleged that the EC "on the instance of" the BJP "helped" the AAP by delaying its recommendation by a month.

He asserted that the Congress was in a position to give a strong fight on many of the affected constituencies in case bypolls were held.

Hours after the news about the EC's recommendation for disqualification of the 20 AAP MLAs spread yesterday, senior leaders of Delhi units of both the Congress and the BJP held meetings to discuss the scenario and possibility of bypolls.

Sisodia, blaming both the parties, said that they were "desperate" since the AAP government's work had hurt their political interests.

"With the work we have done for the people, I want to tell the BJP and the Congress that they will not be able to save their sureties on even a single seat. We are prepared for everything," Sisodia said in a challenge to the two parties.

Gopal Rai, the president of the Delhi unit of the AAP, claimed "victimisation" and asserted the party was "not afraid of elections".

Both Sisodia and Rai claimed the 20 MLAs did not receive even a "single" penny as parliamentary secretaries or any other benefit like office space or accommodation while serving on the post.

"They were appointed to help the government as it was working on Mohalla Clinics, skill centres, unauthorised colonies development and trader-friendly VAT scheme. They used to travel on their own expense. They were not paid even a single paisa as salary or facilities like office and bungalow," Sisodia said.

The AAP has also approached the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on EC's recommendation. The court has listed the case for a hearing on Monday.

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