Chandigarh, June 14: During the last some decades, Aam Aadmi Party is the only political outfit that hit the national scene as party of hope of common man emerging from the ashes of what was Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement reportedly designed by the Delhi based now much discussed non-government Vivekananda Institute. Several retired civil, police, defence and intelligence officials including present security adviser Ajit Doval have been associated with this Right of the Centre organisation. However, the party has now hit the road block for falling in the same rut as other political parties.
The party faces major embarrassment on the appointment of 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries who now face the risk of disqualification as the President Pranab Mukherjee has refused assent to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 to provide retrospective protection to these MLAs from getting disqualified.
The President of India functions within the constitutional norms that in practical terms, amount to putting his stamp on the ‘recommendations’ of the government. As such, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is right when he fires his salvos at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for putting hurdles in the functioning of his semi-state government.
However, there is a big question mark that involves morality in the context of the party promising alternative model of development and governance that continues to be elusive. This name he seems to have given to more efficient governance rather than there being any alternative model and the appointment of an army of 21 parliamentary secretaries on the pattern of other states only hammers this point.
The appointment of parliamentary secretaries is backdoor approach to subvert 91st amendment to the constitution that limits the size of the cabinet to 15 per cent of the total strength of the legislature under Article 164 (A). This amendment was adopted in 2003 on the recommendation of a commission set up to review the working of the constitution.
This raises the very basic issue about AAP. The Delhi Assembly has a strength of 70 with the AAP having 67 MLAs. The politicians have their own ambitions, whatever might be the model of governance. Kejriwal shed his cover of alternative model of governance when he too fell into the same rut by rewarding 21 of his MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. The difference between AAP and the parties like the BJP, the Congress and the Akali Dal ended with this single decision. The Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab too has 18 parliamentary and chief parliamentary secretaries but the size of the Assembly in this case is 117. The issue again is not that of size of the Assembly but the type of governance the party promises to the people.
The amendment to Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 was an effort to provide retrospective legitimacy to protect these MLAs. His government should have moved the amendment first before rewarding these MLAs.
In Punjab, no file is routed through these parliamentary secretaries who are attached to the chief minister or the ministers. They enjoy the privilege of monthly salary, vehicle, police escort, accommodation and personal staff. They are unnecessary burden on the state exchequer and in the end, the people.
Punjab is the state that is witnessing AAP upsurge and this is the only state where the party opened its account in 2014 Lok Sabha election by winning four seats. Two of these MPs have turned rebel. People in this border state have been fed up both with the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Congress. AAP was seen as a party of hope, the party of common man but not anymore. Its governance in Delhi by way of rewarding 21 MLAs and bringing legislation to provide them retrospective protection has only gone to prove that this party is no different. This is the most significant aspect of the decision of the President to refuse assent to the amendment Bill.
The ball is now in the court of the Election Commission. Disqualification of 21 MLAs at this juncture when the Assembly election in Punjab is due in February next can pose a big challenge to the party. But then it is party’s moral grandstanding that has come under question repeatedly and that can be more damaging.