Aam Aadmi Party national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting with all AAP MLAs in the assembly even as the buzz surrounding his imminent arrest refused to die down. And yet another AAP MLA, this time from Punjab, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate under a case of a Rs 40-crore bank loan. Jaswant Singh Gajjanmajra, legislator from Amargarh, was arrested by the ED in the evening even as the meeting between AAP MLAs and Kejriwal was on in the Delhi assembly.
The Delhi meeting is crucial as this is the first time that the chief minister met all the MLAs formally to chalk out the strategy just in case he is arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. On November 2, the Delhi chief minister wrote to the ED, demanding that the agency withdraw its summons and left to campaign for his party in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh.
Monday’s meeting lasted for approximately two hours during which the AAP national convener listened to the MLAs. AAP minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said, “Today there was a meeting of AAP MLAs with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. All MLAs said that AAP is the biggest troublemaker for the BJP. Now, preparations are on to arrest Kejriwal; it is clear that the BJP fears Kejriwal. And it wants Kejriwal to be removed from power…With different arrests, Kejriwal is pressured to resign so that power can be seized from him. However, all MLAs said that whether the government runs from police custody or from jail, Arvind Kejriwal will continue to run Delhi, he will continue as chief minister as votes are in his name.”
Bhardwaj said there is no provision in law or Constitution that efforts to jail a chief minister in the name of trial would go on and he is compelled to resign. “We said that Arvind Kejriwal will remain as chief minister, officers will go to jail to meet him, cabinet ministers will also go to the jail to work. The atmosphere is such that all of us may be jailed. If this happens, the government will run from jail. We will call officers to the jail. The AAP MLAs who are outside jail will implement the decisions.”
According to Atishi, the other minister who was inducted following Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain’s resignations, the feedback from the people is that injustice is being meted out to Arvind Kejriwal. “This is the reason that all MLAs requested Kejriwal to continue in the chief minister’s office even if he is jailed. People of Delhi have voted for him and he will continue to remain CM,” she said.
While as per law, a legislator is allowed to hold office during trial and pending conviction, and there is nothing in law that prevents the Delhi chief minister from doing so, it has never happened due to questions of morality and propriety. And, the chief minister may have to delegate the responsibility of cabinet meetings to another cabinet colleague. Atishi, in fact, said that the government would approach the court and ask for permission that cabinet meetings be held in jail.