By Sandeep Sahu
‘The party with a difference’ has proved that when it comes to grabbing power, it is no different than any other party. The way it ‘manufactured’ a majority in Manipur and Goa after the election results were announced proved, if any proof was required at all, that it has no qualms about taking a leaf out of the book of the Congress, the party that has done the most to circumvent constitutional propriety.
Just sample this. In a house of 60 in Manipur, the BJP had won just 21 while the Congress had won 28. And yet, Governor Najma Heptullah chose to invite the BJP rather than Okram Ibobi Singh, the three-time Chief Minister who had been elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) on Sunday afternoon, to form the government. An Independent MLA, who had pledged his support to Singh over phone, was detained by CISF personnel at the Imphal airport (No prizes for guessing under whose instructions!) and then packed off to Guwahati. (In doing so, the BJP was emulating the Congress, which had got five Independent MLAs on their way to New Delhi offloaded from a plane to deny them the opportunity to meet the President and pledge their support to the BJP after Jharkhand Governor Sibte Razi, in an act of gross partisanship, had invited Shibu Soren to form the government in 2004). Singh met the Governor the same night to stake claim to form the government with the support of the Independent MLA and a Trinamool Congress MLA who had also pledged his support to him. But instead of accepting his request, the Governor waited for BJP general secretary Ram Madhav to stake claim on his party’s behalf. Forget accepting his claim, why on earth did Heptullah even give an audience to Madhav, who had no locus standi in the matter? Having spent the better part of her political life in the Congress, she was perhaps acting in the ‘best traditions’ of her old party!
What followed next was even more bizarre. Without so much as raising an eyebrow, the Governor quietly accepted the request of N Biren Singh, the man elected leader of the BJP Legislature Party, to administer the oath of office and secrecy to Shyamkumar, one of the 28 Congress MLAs who had voted for Ibobi Singh at the CLP meeting earlier, as a minister!
There was also the ethical issue of taking the support of the National People’s Party (NPP) and Naga People’s Front, the two parties BJP leaders had assured repeatedly during the campaign the party would have no truck with. The hope that the BJP had briefly generated by refusing to stake claim after the BMC election despite an impressive performance withered away very quickly with its majority-at-any cost machinations in Manipur.
The case in Goa was no less bizarre. There were just two from the BJP among the eight ministers in the Manohar Parrikar cabinet sworn in on Wednesday – the rest six going to its new found allies Goa Forward Party (GFP) and Maharasthra Gomantak Party (MGP) and the two Independents, who extended support to Parrikar. This was the price the BJP, which had won just 13 seats in the 40-member Goa Assembly, had to pay for its desperation to form the government in the state.
As in the case of Manipur, all established norms, conventions and constitutional proprieties went out of the window as Governor Mridula Sinha invited Parrikar to form the government instead of giving the Congress, which had won four more seats than the BJP, a first shot at government formation.
Flush with the stupendous victory in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the BJP may be rejoicing at having checkmated the Congress in both Manipur and Goa through a mixture of backroom deal-making and downright political chicanery despite emerging second best in the elections. But in acting like the Congress did in the past by entering into unholy alliances with parties and individual MLAs and misusing the office of the Governor, it has done great harm to the evolution of Indian democracy. Its claim of being a ‘party with a difference’ now well and truly lies in tatters.