NEW DELHI, Jan 19 - In a blow to Delhi�s ruling Aam Aadmi Party, the Election Commission today asked the President to disqualify 20 of its MLAs for holding offices of profit, setting the stage for their ouster from the Assembly.
The development does not threaten the AAP government as it has 66 MLAs in the 70-member Assembly. Still, the BJP and Congress demanded that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal resign on moral grounds.
Reacting furiously to the EC order, AAP claimed the Chief Election Commissioner was trying to destabilize its government at the behest of the Prime Minister.
All these MLAs moved the Delhi High Court challenging the EC�s recommendation but Justice Rekha Palli refused to pass any interim order.
In its opinion sent to President Ram Nath Kovind this morning, the Election Commission said the MLAs, by occupying the post of Parliamentary Secretaries between March 13, 2015 and September 8, 2016, held office of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators, highly-placed sources said.
Parliamentary Secretaries assist ministers with their work. The AAP insisted that despite holding the office these MLAs did not take any salaries or perks.
The President is bound by the recommendation of the Commission. Under the rules, petitions to the President seeking disqualification of lawmakers are referred to the EC. The poll panel takes a decision and sends its recommendation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan which is accepted.
In the present case, the petition was made to disqualify 21 MLAs, but one resigned a few months back.
Once the President accepts the recommendation, by-elections will have to be held for 20 Assembly seats.
The disqualification will not put into jeopardy Kejriwal�s government because of its huge majority in the Delhi Assembly. However, the disqualification will bring down its strength drastically to 46. � PTI