AAP has moved the High Court against the reported disqualifications of 20 of its MLAs by the Election Commission of India. This despite the EC lawyer expressing ignorance in Delhi High Court, which will resume its hearing on Monday.
If AAP fails to convince the judges of the High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court, its 20 MLAs will have to lose their seats thereby forcing re-elections. This will also mean that the party led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will have his strength in the assembly reduced from 66 to 46, just 10 more than the comfortable majority.
This is where his Kejriwal’s bigger worry lies.
The 46 MLAs also include four dissidents, who have fallen out with the party on various issues. They are former water and tourism minister and Karawal Nagar MLA Kapil Mishra, Brijwasan MLA Devinder Sehrawat, Timarpur MLA Pankaj Pushkar and former environment minister and Matia Mahal MLA Asim Ahmad Khan. Khan was unceremoniously sacked on live TV by Kejriwal on corruption charges.
This effectively reduces his majority to just 42. What is worrying AAP leaders is the possible poaching by the BJP of their MLAs to topple the Delhi government, which has been at loggerheads with the Centre. Their fear emanates from the previous examples of how BJP had successfully engineered splits in others states including Arunachal Pradesh and more recently in Meghalaya involving Congress party.
One AAP leader told Janta Ka Reporter, “BJP under Narendra Modi desperately wanted to finish us off in Delhi. Modi has till date not been able to digest the spectacular defeat inflicted on him by us in February 2015. Let’s not forget that his victory juggernaut was stopped in Delhi by a man called Arvind Kejriwal. Since then, the BJP has tried every trick to divide us, weaken us and even dismiss our government but they failed on every occasion. They will do everything they can to dismiss our government.”
But this may not be easy for the opponents of Kejriwal. In the event that 20 MLAs are disqualified, the strength of the Delhi assembly will be reduced to 50 and Kejriwal will need just 26 to secure a simple majority till the bypolls are concluded on the remaining seats.
But, AAP leaders’ worry also emanates from Kumar Vishwas, who was recently ignored for the Rajya Sabha nomination. The poet-politician had expressed his dissatisfaction publicly and even launched a tirade against Kejriwal. There’s a fear among top AAP functionaries that the saffron party with the help of Vishwas may poach enough MLAs to bring Kejriwal’s government in minority.
Sources close to Vishwas claim that he enjoys the support of at least 10 MLAs. His proximity to BJP leaders is a well-known fact. AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan had alleged that Kumar Vishwas was trying to “usurp” the AAP and that he harboured ambitions of leading the party.
Khan, then a member of the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC), its apex decision-making body, had also claimed that the poet-turned-politician Vishwas has been calling MLAs to his residence and coaxing them to rebel against Kejriwal or to join the BJP.
Not many of the 20 MLAs are keen to face voters midway through their term. This largely because of the fear that they may not have performed up to the expectations of their electorate but also due to the paucity of resources, required to contest fresh elections.
The AAP leadership will prefer that their appeals in the courts of law – High Court followed by the Supreme Court – are prolonged till the party completes five years in office.