BY ANINDYA BANERJEE
New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) The growing coziness with the JJP may have been an afterthought after BJP was bruised by an online campaign mocking its ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign for holding talks with rape accused Gopal Goyal Kanda, but the fact that Kanda was actively reached out by the party cannot be overruled.
Kanda, who till Friday afternoon was the kingmaker for the BJP, that fell six seats short of majority, was brought into the negotiation board by BJP’s Goa President Vinay Tendulkar, sources said.
By Friday afternoon it was apparent that the BJP was comfortable in the numbers game and would form the next government in Haryana with help from independents. The man playing kingmaker was Kanda, who offered his “unconditional support” for a BJP government.
Sources said he was brought into the government formation negotiations by the BJP’s Goa unit President, Vinay Tendulkar.
While, up north, Kanda is known to be a Haryana strongman, and as the owner of the now defunct MDLR airlines, he is also known as the ‘gambling mogul’ in Goa where he owns Big Daddy Casino. It is one of the six floating gaming parlors that operates on Goa’s Mandovi river.
This May, Kanda kicked off an 11-day ‘opening extravaganza’ for his casino on a 72-meter-long vessel. Sources said that Kanda happens to know Tendulkar by virtue of his business operation in Goa and the ‘acquaintanceship’ was exploited by the BJP when it realized — from early trends in counting of votes on Thursday — that it was falling short of numbers in Haryana.
By the end of the day, the BJP had a tally of 40 seats, six short of a majority. Unsure whether the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) with 10 MLAs would back it, the BJP considered the option of reaching out to other winning candidates to arrive at the magic number.
With Kanda’s reputation as Haryana strongman intact, the BJP contacted him expecting to make use of his influence in state politics. By the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cavalcade drove into the party headquarters at 6-A Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg on Thursday, where he addressed party cadres followed by a closed-door BJP Parliamentary Party Board meeting, contact was established with Kanda through Tendulkar, according to sources.
In no time, Kanda was on board a chartered flight that took off from Sirsa for Delhi for a meeting with the BJP top leadership. A selfie that was clicked on board the flight shows BJP MP from Sirsa Sunita Duggal as well.
Nightlong negotiations later, on Friday morning, he pledged “unconditional support” to the BJP, and spoke of his family’s RSS roots. Soon, seven more independent MLAs followed suit.
The BJP, which had been fretting for six more MLAs to shore up its government formation chances, had now got the support of eight. However, after Kanda’s controversial past created a social media storm, an evasive BJP said on Friday that it would take a call on whose support to take, without naming anyone.
But the ease with which Kanda was approached for Haryana can be traced back to the relation the party shares with him in Goa. When the issue of renewal of Kanda’s floating casino reached the court, the BJP government led by then Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar had approved of the launch of Goa’s sixth ‘offshore’ casino.
The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court had asked the Goa government to decide on whether or not to renew Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd’s (GGHPL) casino license or not.
According to a report, that license was issued just two days before the results of the Goa elections were announced in March 2017. Interestingly, the Aam Aadmi Party that created ripples during the 2017 Goa election, promised to ban casinos in Goa. IANS tried to contact Tendulkar but was unsuccessful.
BY ANINDYA BANERJEE