‘Office of Profit’ issue arms Cong, BJP against Kejriwal

RSTV Bureau
Ahmedabad: President Pranab Mukharjee at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Tuesday, December 1, 2015. Photo - PTI

FILE: File Photo – PTI

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in huddle with fate of its 21 MLAs in Delhi hanging in fragile balance after President Pranab Mukherkjee rejected Delhi government’s bill to exclude the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the office of profit. While the issue is already pending before Election Commission, opposition parties – Congress and the BJP – flayed Arvind Kejriwal led government alleging blatant disregard of the constitutional provisions.

Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba, Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri, journalist-turned-politician Jarnail Singh, Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar) are among the prominent party members who were made Parliamentary Secretaries by the Kejriwal government last year and they now face threat of being disqualified.

The Congress party had earlier last week petitioned the central poll body demanding “immediate disqualification” of the 21 MLAs. And after Monday night’s development, they have firmly reiterated the stand.

“21 AAP MLAs were not satisfied with hike to Rs3Lac/month Salary&Perks- Wanted office,staff&car by being Parl Sec-Unethical Bill Rejected!” tweeted senior Congress leader Ajay Maken.

File Photo: Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Maken also called on Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung on June 08, 2016.

File Photo: Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Maken also called on Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung on June 08, 2016.

BJP, which is a lone opposition party with 3 legislators in the Delhi assembly, came down heavily on AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal. The BJP also criticised the ruling party in Delhi alleging disregard to constitutional provisions.

““When they (AAP MLAs) took their oath, they came in metro, e-rickshaw and other simple modes of transport as they are going to do service. Now they say if an MLA has to visit an hospital or a school, he should get additional renumeration, a red beacon car among others. Is this service or commercialisation of service?,” BJP’s Sambit Patra said addressing a presser earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, fearing the possibility of its 21 lawmakers getting disqualified, AAP held an emergency meeting to deliberate on the issue.

“We have given additional responsibilities to our MLAs but they are working for free… they are not entitled to any remuneration, perks, facilities or services from the government,” Kejriwal told the press on Tuesday.

The Delhi Chief Minister also said the BJP is “scared” of AAP and unable to digest its defeat in Delhi.

“Modiji hasn’t been able to digest defeat in Delhi and that is why they are doing all this to not let us work,” he added.

FILE: Delhi CM and Convener of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal with the gathering of party workers and public.  Photo - PTI

FILE: Delhi CM and Convener of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal with the gathering of party workers and public.
Photo – PTI

The Kejriwal government had last year passed a legislation terming the posts occupied by these 21 MLAs out of the ambit of the ‘Office of Profit’. The bill was first sent to Delhi LG Najeeb Jung seeking his assent but LG Jung had instead sent it to the Union Home ministry. And now the President has refused give assent to the bill.

In an interview to a Delhi based news and current affairs TV network, Najeeb Jung had said that 21 MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may face risk of disqualification under the rule of ‘Office of Profit’.

“By definition when we look at the statutes of Delhi, then the office of the Parliamentary Secretary is defined as an office of profit. Schedule 7 says that Delhi can have one Parliamentary Secretary and that’s an office of profit,” Delhi LG had told in his interview.

Elaborating further, Mr. Jung said if the Centre does not approve the Bill sent by the Delhi government to regularise the posts, the MLAs may be disqualified.

The central poll panel issued them a notice on a petition filed by one Delhi-based lawyer demanding their disqualification alleging the MLAs were occupying the offices of profit in violation to the constitutional provisions.

The issue of Office of profit earlier saw Congress party president Sonia Gandhi giving up her parliamentary seat and re-contesting the polls in 2005. While in 2006, Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan too was disqualified for holding Office of Profit.