In a clear attempt to prevent the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from making its debut in the Rajya Sabha in January next year, the BJP has initiated a series of offensives against its principal opponent in the national capital. Three Rajya Sabha seats will fall vacant after the Congress nominees, Dr Karan Singh, Janardhan Dwivedi and Pervez Hashmi complete their six year term on 27 January 2018. All the seats would go to AAP since it enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Delhi Assembly. The elections for each of the seats are not inter connected and would not be held simultaneously, thereby ensuring that the party which has the numbers in its kitty will be the winner in the three separate contests.
The AAP, at present, has no representation in the Upper House though it had bagged four Lok Sabha seats from Punjab in the 2014 Parliamentary polls. Therefore, if the AAP continues to be power till the beginning of next year, it is certain to receive its reward in the form of three berths to the Rajya Sabha. Fully aware that there are several claimants in the AAP for the coveted positions, the BJP has apparently adopted a multi prong strategy.
The Saffron brigade is keen to create dissensions within the party and the near revolt by eminent poet and thinker Kumar Vishwas was perceived as one such attempt so as to create a divide in the ranks. It is another matter, that both Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia sensed the intentions, thus placating Kumar Vishwas whose expulsion was being sought by other prominent members of the AAP. Kejriwal’s logic was that a wrong impression should not go afloat that the AAP leadership was trying to ease out elements who did not share its doctrine. He took pains to explain to his supporters that Kumar Vishwas’s continuation in the party was of utmost importance and so no attempt should be made to force his exit. His case could not be treated at par with Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav who were unceremoniously expelled following an intra party tussle where most of the members clearly preferred Kejriwal over them. The party leadership has chosen to be silent on the prospective Rajya Sabha nominees and has not responded to BJP inspired propaganda that Kejriwal was wanting to send his wife to the Upper House. “The nominees would be declared at an appropriate time. The BJP wants to create differences within the AAP’s ranks on this issue and it shall not succeed,” an AAP functionary stated.
A few days earlier, an emotional Kejriwal trying to come to terms with his party’s humiliating defeat in the civic elections, made the elected members take an oath of loyalty to the organisation to re-affirm their commitment to the principles which were the foundation of the party. He also asked them to swear in the name of God that they would not betray either the people or the Almighty under any circumstances. Apparently his action was a manifestation of his fears that the buoyant BJP may try to entice and lure MLAs and corporators by offering inducements. He also publicly wanted to demonstrate the total allegiance of his followers who were in complete alignment with him both in thought and action despite repeated overtures from the BJP. Thus their commitment to the AAP cause was out-and-out non negotiable.
Earlier, several BJP leaders had indicated even before the results of the Delhi municipal corporations had been declared that the AAP rule in Delhi might be cut short since its leadership had not been adhering to norms and many of its MLA were facing criminal cases. Soon after the results, a Central minister stated that the AAP’s popularity was diminishing and thereby it had forfeited the right to govern over Delhi. Another leader noted that AAP had violated the constitution on several occasions and thus its government could face dismissal.
In fact, the BJP is eagerly awaiting the ruling of the Election Commission on the issue of disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs who were initially appointed Parliamentary secretaries. The anticipation is that the Election Commission could unseat the MLAs thereby necessitating byelections. Given the prevalent pro Modi mood in the city, the BJP consequently would be able to get its nominees elected in most assembly segments. The calculation and computation is flawed as is evident from the fact that presuming the AAP was to lose all the 20 seats in the event of a bypoll, it still would continue to be in power with 46 seats in the 70 member house.
The AAP’s counter to the BJP’s point on the disqualification of the MLAs is that the Election Commission does not have any jurisdiction over the matter after the High Court struck down the notification of their appointment. Thus, there was no case before the EC as the MLAs ceased to be Parliamentary Secretaries. “What would the EC decide in such a case?” an AAP functionary inquired.
The latest missile fired by the Centre is in the form of a notice issued by the ministry of Home Affairs which accuses AAP of violating and breaching the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 in respect of receiving foreign funding. The AAP on Friday described the notice as a “political witchhunt and another attempt to malign the image of the party”. AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha voiced, “CBI raids and foreign funding investigation today, Centre’s vendetta comes out as an out war on this political toddler AAP’’.
On the other hand, the BJP has termed AAP’s actions as part of their ongoing theatrics which were at the cost of the overall interests of the people of Delhi. The party is pressing its government at the Centre to take action on the Shunglu committee report that has indicted AAP leaders though it has not been able to pin point any financial irregularity. It is not the BJP alone but the Congress too is keen that the Shunglu report should be acted upon without acknowledging that the former Comptroller and Auditor General had few years ago strongly indicted its Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in the Commonwealth Games scam. Shunglu, at that time, had been asked to probe the irregularities by the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.
The last word on the BJP-AAP war is yet to be heard.