New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party has been involved in so many political skirmishes with the BJP that it might just have forgotten it has another rival snapping at its heels – the Congress, whose government AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal was instrumental in unseating way back in 2013.
On Saturday, the Congress reminded AAP of its presence with Delhi Pradesh committee chief Ajay Maken filing a complaint at the Election Commission aimed at stymieing Kejriwal’s choice for one of three Rajya Sabha seats his party is set to win later this month.
Maken wrote to the EC alleging that N.D. Gupta held an office of profit as he was a trustee of the government owned National Pension Scheme Trust, and is therefore ineligible to contest the January 16 Rajya Sabha election.
In a decision that AAP leaders described as highly irregular, the returning officer reserved his order on Gupta’s nomination. Maken, on his part, promptly took to Twitter to publicise his move:
Congress has filed objection at scruitiny of AAP Rajya Sabha candidate ND Gupta-
ND Gupta, a BJP, Modi & GST supporter was appointed as a Trustee of Govt owned 1.75 Lakh crore National Pension Scheme Trust!
He still holds this office of Profit as on Date-Inelligible to contest! pic.twitter.com/P7Szmd3gw0
— Ajay Maken (@ajaymaken) January 6, 2018
In his application, Maken sought the rejection of the nomination of Gupta under Article 102 of the constitution for holding an office of profit.
Gupta, he said, “is currently holding the office of the trustee of the National Pension System Trust” as per the latest information available on the official website of the NPS, was appointed a trustee on March 30, 2015 and “continues as a trustee”.
‘NPS virtually discharges functions of government’
Stating that the NPS discharges a very important governmental function of being the custodian of pensions of lakhs of government employees, Maken said that that the trust is “almost an extension of the Ministry of Finance and Department of Pension”.
Therefore, he claimed, the office of the trustee of the NPS, which Gupta held, is an office which virtually discharges the functions of the government itself as there is a very important public element attached to the same.
‘Office also entitled to remuneration, perks’
Maken further claimed that “an office of a Trustee of the NPS is entitled to remuneration, emoluments, perks and other facilities. Therefore by virtue of the said benefits attached to the office of N.D. Gupta, he is currently holding an office of profit.”
Following Maken’s claim, the returning officer decided to conduct a fresh review of the application on Monday, January 8.
Only candidates, election agents can file complaints: AAP
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party responded angrily to the development. Its spokesperson, Saurabh Bharadwaj, questioned the delay in the scrutiny of the party candidate due to Maken’s complaint. “Only the candidates or their election agents (are allowed) to raise objections at the stage of scrutiny of nominations,” he said, adding that however here Maken’s objections were not only considered but were also considered at the time of scrutiny. “This is unprecedented in the history of election nominations,” he claimed.
Bharadwaj also charged that it was either “due to lack of knowledge or under pressure” that the returning officer “invited Maken to lead evidence” before him. “This is evidence hunting and is defying all laid down principles,” he said.
Bharadwaj said “the law is very clear about who can file objections at (the) time of nomination(s)… Now, if one lakh people file objections, will the ROs give individual hearing to all such people? Will one lakh people lead evidence and arguments? Will this become an unending civil suit?”
The AAP leader said that “instead of deciding the nomination, the RO has reserved the order making it further susceptible to external influence”.
The party had earlier on January 3 announced the names of chartered accountant N.D. Gupta, businessman and former Delhi Congress trader cell chief Sushil Gupta, and its own national executive committee member Sanjay Singh as candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls, which the party is certain to win owing to the overwhelming majority it enjoys in the Delhi assembly.
Ever since the names were announced, Maken has spearheaded a campaign against AAP for the way it selected its candidates.
At a press conference on January 5, he called AAP the “B team of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)” and claimed N.D. Gupta was named as a candidate because he was “close” to a Union minister. Maken alleged that AAP and BJP have come together to send Gupta to the Rajya Sabha.
“Gupta has years of relation with a Union Minister. There is match-fixing between [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi and [Delhi chief minister Arvind] Kejriwal. So, do not expect anything in cases filed by different central agencies against AAP leaders,” he had claimed.
Maken had also questioned what prompted AAP to make Sushil Gupta a candidate. He had earlier also tweeted his alleged conversation with Sushil Gupta, when the latter was about to resign as the trader cell head of the Delhi Congress.
On 28th Nov, Sushil Gupta came to submit his resignation-
I asked him-“Why”?
“सर,मुझे राज्य सभा का वायदा करा है”-was his answer!
“संभव नहीं”-I smiled
“सर आप नहीं जानते..”-He smiled
Less than 40 days-Less said the better!
Otherwise,Sushil is a good man known for his charity! pic.twitter.com/DgrYhVaFJA
— Ajay Maken (@ajaymaken) January 3, 2018
The tweet had sought to indicate how things worked out in Delhi politics over the past couple of months.