Karnataka may have a new Government but built on the ruins of political morality, will it last?
BS Yeddyurappa, the likely new BJP Chief Minister of Karnataka, may have had his circle of life moment after winning numerical trust in the Assembly. First, he avenged and exposed the hypocrisy of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, with whom he had once engineered a coalition of shared chief ministership which was subsequently denied to him. So this is comeuppance. Second, by being the tallest Lingayat leader of consequence and still being the charioteer of BJP’s fortunes in the South, he has established his primacy and worth in a party that had shunned him after he was indicted in a corruption case. And despite the central leadership’s discomfort over his deep connections with the mining mafia, it is willing to look at workarounds. So much so that the party is willing to overlook its self-imposed clause of retirement at 75 and is willing to put the 76-year-old in charge of his State. And at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing the farmers’ agenda, he couldn’t have had a better gatekeeper in the “Raithara Bandhu” as Yedyurappa is known in these parts. Known for separating an agriculture budget during his chief ministership, he has already prioritised his key focus area after the one-year paralysis of governance. Be that as it may, it is Yedyurappa’s political journey and ego that have been set on course. Unable to live the chief ministerial dream on two precious occasions, he is hoping to break the jinx. For the people of Karnataka, they have to live with the pulls and pressures of a fractured mandate, the whimsy of the politics of negotiation and no real representation of their concerns.
Let us look at the bigger picture. For starters, the margin of victory continues to be wafer-thin, the BJP’s 105 to the JD(S)-Congress alliance’s 99, subjecting the new regime to an added pressure of maintaining a number game. The fate of 20 MLAs, including 13 from the Congress and three from the JD(S), as also four other MLAs, who abstained on some pretext, has to be decided. The lone BSP MLA, who was expelled for not supporting JD(S), will join the BJP. And given the nature of transactional politics that has taken place, with unofficial reports suggesting that `30 crore were given to rebellious MLAs, besides perks, promotions and ministerial positions, their disqualification by the pro-Kumaraswamy Speaker could deny them benefits. The only way Yeddyurappa can prevent this is by seeking a vote of no-confidence in the present Speaker and have a new one elected from his own party to conduct proceedings. The bigger damage is a total collapse of morality in public life as evidenced by the Congress-BJP rivalry spilling out of the House and into the streets, forcing a security clampdown in Bengaluru, affecting the lives of its citizens on a busy workday. Finally, it showed how the anti-defection law now frankly doesn’t matter. Instead of joining another party, legislators simply resign. And as evidenced by events in Telangana and Goa, legislators have circumvented action by ensuring a grouping that is higher than the one-third of their parent party’s House membership and joined a new sponsoring party. In effect, the ruling party or combine’s stability will depend on its ability to manage the numbers and keeping them hooked enough so as not to drift at the slightest pinch of trouble. This goes against the spirit of the Anti-Defection Law, which was intended to tame money and muscle power. The law was further defanged by its greatest keeper, the Supreme Court, when it disallowed a whip that would have necessitated a presence of all dissident legislators on the floor of the House. Time has come to consider the 1999 Law Commission’s suggestions on disqualifying mergers and taking the decision-making process out of the sole hands of the Speaker, who could be biased, to the Governor or President, who would act on the advice of the Election Commissioner. The Constitution Review Commission of 2002 suggested that defectors be barred from holding public office with civil activists suggesting that they be banned for five years in the least. But in cash flow negotiations, there are other ways of working around power positions and ensuring pecuniary benefits. The Congress has burnt its fingers badly over the past year in playing this game, losing its voterbase and relevance. It is now ready to face any competition through an election. The BJP too is in an unhappy position. Both parties, as national entities, should take the lead in cleansing this menace once and for all.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer