New Delhi, Feb 8 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann slammed the BJP-led Centre on Thursday for "attacking" federalism and using governors in opposition-ruled states to hinder the governments' work, and stressed that only those who have been elected by people have the right to rule in a democracy.
Speaking at the Left Democratic Front (LDF) protest led by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here, Mann said he was forced to come to Jantar Mantar instead of making policies for Punjab.
"We should have been in our secretariats, making policies, but we have come here to seek our rights. It is important to stick together to save the country," he said.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader accused governors in opposition-ruled states of hindering the state governments' work.
"The (Punjab) governor said the Assembly session was illegal, so we had to go to the Supreme Court.... The BJP is nowhere in Punjab. It has only two MLAs. Wherever the BJP is not present, the governors act as the opposition," he said.
"Those elected will rule in a democracy. You cannot dictate. You cannot keep sitting on a bill," Mann said.
He also mentioned a controversy around the Chandigarh mayoral polls held on January 30. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the polls against the Congress-AAP alliance.
Manoj Sonkar of the BJP defeated the AAP's Kuldeep Kumar for the mayor's post, polling 16 votes against his rival's 12. Eight votes were declared invalid. Opposition councilors accused the presiding officer of tampering with the ballot papers, a charge denied by the BJP.
"You must have seen what happened in Chandigarh. They had to count 36 votes and they did a scam of almost 25 per cent votes.... In May, 90 crore votes are going to be counted," Mann said, referring to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
DMK leader Tiruchi Siva accused the Tamil Nadu governor of interfering in the work of the state government and said, "We have assembled here to make the country realise that we are against the authoritarianism of the Union government headed by the BJP." "The states are being suppressed, our rights are being usurped," he added.
The DMK leader alleged that governors in opposition-ruled states are indulging in "extra-constitutional, unwarranted activities".
"They are not allowing the state governments to make laws. In Tamil Nadu, the governor does the same and everyone knows what the Kerala governor is doing. Have you ever seen a governor sitting on a dharna on a street?" he asked.
Siva expressed confidence that the opposition will form the government at the Centre following the Lok Sabha polls that are likely to be held in April-May.
"The DMK has two slogans -- state autonomy and abolish governorship. The 2024 election is the only opportunity available to us. Go to the polling booth with the ballot paper in your hand and when you return, the BJP government would have fallen and our alliance would have assumed power. On the next Independence Day, the prime minister of our alliance will hoist the (national) flag at the Red Fort. That day is not far," he asserted.
National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah asked why Assembly polls are not being held in Jammu and Kashmir and wondered what was gained from the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution.
"When they (Centre) abrogated Article 370, they said it was responsible for terrorism. Yesterday, two innocent people were shot dead (in Srinagar)," the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said.
"You have denied us election, which is our right according to the Constitution. Are we not part of India that you have denied us the basic right to govern ourselves? Give us our constitutional right so that we can move forward," he said.
The veteran leader stressed that the opposition is not an enemy of the government.
"If you want a strong India, do not consider the opposition as an enemy. The opposition is essential.... Parliament is not meant to be one-sided. None of us who sit in Parliament wants India to fail," he said.
Former Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal talked about the electoral bonds scheme and alleged that the money earned by the BJP through these is being used to destabilise governments in states ruled by opposition parties.
"The BJP has collected around Rs 5,000 crore through electoral bonds. In the Supreme Court, I asked do you use it for elections? Because an MP cannot spend more than Rs 95 lakh in an election and an MLA cannot spend more than Rs 45 lakh.... This fund is used when they have to topple opposition governments," Sibal said.
Talking about a case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, he said, "They said there is a benami land. When Soren said it is not his land, they claimed that someone near the property told them so.... They said a woman sitting there said it was the chief minister's land." Sibal also dismissed the BJP's allegation that the opposition is trying to create a north-south divide and accused the ruling party of creating divisions in the name of religion and caste. PTI AO RC