Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “political vendetta” on Tuesday, escalating the Delhi government’s fight with the Centre over 21 AAP legislators facing disqualification for holding multiple paying positions.
The BJP hit back at the AAP, saying Kejriwal was obsessed with attacking the Prime Minister. The ruling party at the Centre also accused AAP of lying under oath to the Election Commission by saying that no perks were given to the 21 MLAs who are serving as parliamentary secretaries, specially created official posts to help ministers discharge their duties.
The latest confrontation between the Centre and the AAP government was sparked by President Pranab Mukherjee’s refusal to sign a bill that would allow the 21 MLAs to hold the second paying position, paving the way for their possible disqualification.
The Constitution prohibits legislators or parliamentarians from holding any positions with monetary or other benefits. This clause – known as office of profit – is aimed at reducing conflict-of-interest situations for public representatives.
A 2003 constitutional amendment capped the number of ministerial berths to 15% of the House strength. Since then several states started appointing parliamentary secretaries, using the posts to keep legislators without ministerial berths happy.
Kejriwal, who saw the BJP-led government’s hand in the issue, questioned why similar action was not taken in other states such as Haryana, Nagaland and Rajasthan which too have parliamentary secretaries.
“There are Parliamentary Secretaries in Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, West Bengal and across the country. Those in Punjab get Rs 1 lakh per month, car and bungalow as well. But they have not been disqualified. Why only Delhi? Because he (Modi) is scared of Aam Aadmi Party,” the chief minister said.
“Modiji says that Sonia Gandhiji isn’t allowing the Parliament to function because she can’t digest defeat. Want to ask Modiji, is he not allowing Delhi government to function because he is unable to digest defeat in Delhi?”
The BJP deployed two of its leaders to counter the AAP charges.
“In its affidavit to the Election Commission, AAP had said no emoluments, perks or facilities were provided to the parliamentary secretaries. That amounts to perjury,” said party MP Meenakshi Lekhi who released a list of rooms purportedly allotted in the assembly building to the 21 MLAs.
Questioning the AAP’s move to retrospectively amend the law to exempt the parliamentary secretaries from the office of profit rule, Lekhi charged the Kejriwal government with making 21 appointments against an existing position of one parliamentary secretary.
“If you were so sure of the legal position, why did you not move the amendment before making the appointment?”
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra too attacked Kejriwal for questioning the decision of the President.
“You (Kejriwal) have certain political ambitions, rightly so under a democratic system, but for god’s sake don’t demean the credibility of the President of India because in the end you are demeaning the democracy of this country,” Patra said told reporters.
Disqualification of the MLAs would come as a major setback for Kejriwal who stormed to power two years ago on an anti-corruption plank.
In December, Kejriwal had come under flak for a four-fold salary hike along with a substantial increase in allowances for Delhi MLAs. Kejriwal has also repeatedly clashed with the Centre over officers’ appointment, files and governmental jurisdiction.
The Congress too attacked the AAP over the parliamentary secretary issue, seeking Kejriwal’s resignation for making false claims.