From Monday, the Delhi High Court would start hearing the plea moved by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) against presidential consent to dismiss 20 members of the Delhi Legislative Assembly.
The stand taken by the dismissed MLAs, all belonging to the Aam Aadmi Party and dismissed on the charge of holding Office of Profit, is that since no profit ever accrued to them from the office they were purported to have held, they should not be penalised.
The counter view is that the intent was to make profit and therefore a bill was brought in the Assembly to include the office of Parliamentary Secretary to the ministers in the list of exempted positions. Since the bill sought to include these offices from retrospective effect and had other lacunae, it failed and thus the present fallout.
Legalities aside, the larger question is, why the AAP leadership, which in the run-up to the Assembly polls in 2013 and 2015 had trumpeted the policy of going to people’s court for taking all major decisions, is fearing facing the public now.
It’s using all legal remedies to scuttle bypolls, which would fill the 20 seats vacated by the dismissal of these MLAs.
Those who follow the city’s electoral fortunes would vouch that in the 25 years of the existence of the National Capital Territory (NCT) Act, the Bharatiya Janata Party has remained consistent, or may be stagnant, in electoral performance as far as Assembly elections go — by bagging around one-third of the polled votes.
It’s major rival Congress lost to them in 1993 in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition as a large number of minority voters went with the Janata Dal, which had emerged as the third force.
But thereafter, under Sheila Dikshit’s stewardship, it won in 1998, 2003 and 2008.
In 2013, despite the Herculean effort made by its chief ministerial candidate Harshvardhan and its prime ministerial face Narendra Modi, the BJP could not cross the halfway mark as the division of votes between the Congress and the newbie AAP went in latter’s favour more than anybody expected.
In 2015, with its long-serving face in Delhi Sheila Dikshit out of the scene and the party’s central leadership in tatters following the rout in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress campaign just refused to take off, putting all the non-BJP votes in AAP’s kitty and results were for everyone to see — the AAP winning 67 of the 70 seats.
However, as the clichéd saying goes, much water has flown down the Yamuna since then.
The AAP leadership has been inundated with fratricidal feud, the Arvind Kejriwal government has been plagued with non-performance and cadre over-whelmed by somewhat despotic management.
After below-expectation performance in Punjab assembly polls, and no performance in the civic polls which followed in the state, the AAP has increasingly come to be restricted within the precincts of National Capital Territory, with no hope whatsoever left of being a national alternative.
Its complete non-relevance in Gujarat assembly polls has reiterated this trend.
Within the national capital territory too, its poor performance in the civic elections ending a distant second to the BJP but the Congress following it as close third has made it apparent to the AAP leadership that for now it’s an insurmountable task for them to even hold on to their seats.
A quick look at the seats which would go to polls, if the High Court refuses to stay the electoral process, would make it clear that these seats for long have been strongholds of Congress stalwarts.
Of these 20 seats, in the last civic polls (2017), the Congress led in Chandni Chowk, Sadar and Mehrauli and came close second in Jungpura, Kalkaji, Kasturba Nagar, Laxmi Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Kondli.
On most of these seats, the minority and Dalit votes form a major component and they largely have been the mainstay of the AAP’s progress in the capital.
However, with the likelihood of the consolidation of Dalits and minorities behind the Congress, as witnessed in just concluded Gujarat assembly polls, the AAP leadership would use all possible means to stall polls, lest it further ‘certifies’ erosion in its support base and hastens its downhill journey for now.
(The writer is a political commentator. Views are personal.)