‘Buy MLAs and Form Govt’: AAP’s Ashutosh on BJP’s Mantra in Goa

I am surprised at the BJP’s statement over the issue of government formation in Goa. Venkaiah Naidu argued that in 2013, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in Delhi but the Aam Aadmi Party, which secured four seats less than the Hindutva party, formed the government with support from the Congress, which won eight seats.

In this background, the BJP leader terms it wrong on the part of those who maintained that the single largest party should be given a chance to form a government. He also ruled out the opposition’s charge that the BJP, by resorting to money power, tore asunder the established constitutional practices in Goa.

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Venkaiah is a very senior leader who is highly respected in political circles. If any junior BJP leader had made such a statement, it could have been swallowed and digested. But since it was Venkaiah, who was at the helm of the party, it becomes a bit laughable. He is misleading the people by presenting wrong facts.

It is true that the BJP, along with a seat of the Akali Dal, its alliance partner, had 32 seats in its command. AAP had 28 seats, while the Congress managed to win only eight. And none of them were in a position to form a government on their own.

Also Read: Will More Congress MLAs In Goa Defect to an Unpopular BJP?

AAP Didn’t Mind Being the Opposition

AAP was a new party then. It had protested against corruption and formation of a government by hook or by crook during the 2013 Delhi poll campaign. As soon as results of that election were declared, the first reaction of AAP leaders was that they should not form government, and instead sit in opposition.

The party had decided in its internal meeting that a government formed by seeking support from another party and an individual MLA wouldn’t last. It would form a government only when it got a majority on its own. This is what the AAP leadership had conveyed to the then Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. The party was mentally prepared to sit in opposition.

In those days, I was the managing editor of IBN7. When Arvind (Kejriwal) asked me what he should do, my advice was that any attempt to form government would prove disastrous for AAP because people had different expectations from the party.

AAP decided to sit in opposition. The BJP told the Lieutenant Governor that it would not form government. On 12 December, then BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan said that his party would sit in opposition because it didn’t have the numbers to form government. He had also said that the party would form government only when it had a majority.

Congress’ Support

That same evening, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that his party would not try to form government. He also said that if AAP was keen to form government, it should try. But the saffron party leaders’ tone changed in Goa.

In the meantime, newspapers carried a Congress statement which said that the party would consider offering support to AAP. The party didn’t take it seriously. But then questions began to be raised within AAP; If it failed to form a government following the declaration of the Congress’s support, and election was re-held in Delhi, the people would hold it responsible for imposing an election on them again.

People might feel that AAP shied away from shouldering the responsibility of government formation. In view of possible damage to the party, discussions were again held within the party on the issue.

Correct Political Strategy

What kind of government is established? Would it be right to take support from the Congress whose involvement in corruption was raised by AAP during the election campaign? The situation was very tough. Running away from responsibility would not be the right strategy.

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal. (Photo: PTI)

I was in the studio when information came in that AAP might reconsider the issue of government formation; a hint to this regard appeared in Kumar Vishwas’ statement. I immediately called Yogendra Yadav. He too had no information in this regard. Then I received a phone call from a correspondent in which he said that there appeared to be a change in the political air.

News surfaced that on 14 December night, a letter signed by Congress’ Delhi in-charge Shakeel Ahmed had been sent to the Lieutenant Governor in which the party spoke about offering support to AAP. This news was confirmed after I spoke with AAP leaders. But there was also a fact that no formal talks were held between AAP and Congress leaders over the issue of lending support to an AAP-led government.

AAP’s Apprehensions

The Congress had decided to provide a letter of support on its own. But a section of AAP believed that the Congress was trying to act smart and, hence, it should avoid taking support. Their stand was that in the manner in which Indira Gandhi had dislodged the Morarji Desai government in 1979 by luring Charan Singh with her party’s support in the formation of his government, the Congress could apply the same trick with AAP.

The situation had changed. Within AAP, a considered view emerged that following the Congress’ letter of support, if the party refused to form government then it would send a wrong signal. To face the concurrent situation, the party wrote a letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on 18 issues, including Lokpal, and sought clarification on her party’s stand on them.

At the same time, it was also decided that any decision on the Congress’ support should be arrived at only after seeking opinions from the people. The people’s views were sought through SMS. Six lakh SMSes suggesting the AAP should form a government were received.

Arvind Kejriwal. (Photo: The Quint)

AAP Gained Public Support

Again, opinions were generated by holding public meetings in each ward. In as many as 250 of the total 272 public meetings, people raised their hands in support of the AAP government with outside support from the Congress. For the first time in the country’s political history, a government was formed after seeking public opinions and not by virtue of money or muscle power. Every action was taken after seeking public opinion.

In the cabinet formation too, no opinion was sought from the Congress. Every time we reiterated that it was the Congress which offered its support; neither did the AAP seek nor did it accept.

The situation had evolved in such a way that if AAP had not formed its government, people could have declared it an irresponsible party. No Congress MLA was given any berth in the AAP-led government’s cabinet. The Congress was in a quandary.

Venkaiah Naidu should’ve known that in 2013, the Lieutenant Governor had invited AAP to form a government. Unlike Manohar Parrikar who had rushed to the Governor, the AAP had not moved on its own to form its government. In Goa, the Governor had not invited the BJP, rather the saffron party on its own accepted the invitation on the issue of government formation.

Fingers are being pointed at the Governor of Goa for not working in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution. There was no such allegation in 2013.

Back then, the BJP was talking about ethics, but this time, the party chose to put that aside. Despite being the number two party in terms of number of seats, it managed to get support from smaller parties and Independents and formed the government. Obviously, political machinations were at play. Money power was used openly.

The Constitution was violated and its spirit was badgered to smithereens. Nothing of this sort happened in 2013. The Supreme Court’s harsh criticism of the saffron party after the manner in which governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh were removed seems to have had no impact on BJP leaders. Thus, even if the BJP is number two party in Goa or Manipur, it does not matter. ‘Purchase MLAs and form a government’ is new mantra for the BJP; ethics and Constitutional propriety have been thrown into the dustbin.

(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on QuintHindi.)