A wasted mandate

Karnatakas downslide
Last Updated 22 October 2010, 17:04 IST

Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar is credited with turning the once rowdy state’s dubious image on its head and infusing a new sense of pride and belonging in Biharis. Through good governance and his unwillingness to compromise with criminalisation of politics, he has successfully proved that even a coalition government, that too in alliance with the BJP, which stands much discredited in Karnataka, can deliver on the electoral mandate of the people.

According to one estimate, the young and upwardly mobile professional classes, who would earlier migrate out of Bihar in search of greener and safer pastures, are now showing an increasingly strong homing instinct and returning to base to pursue their careers and fulfil filial duties.

In Gujarat, another BJP-ruled state, chief minister Narendra Modi, despite his communal and bloody Godhra taint, has scripted a runaway success story. He is hailed for having changed the way the state is looked at outside and reinforcing the self-esteem of the always proud and self-made Gujaratis.

But down south, a peaceful, politically stable Karnataka state has turned into a hotbed of political chicanery and corruption of the lowest kind. It is no use trying to fix the blame on any of the bickering parties — the ruling BJP, the Opposition Janata Dal-Congress combine or the independently elected MLAs — as all of them are in some way equal parties to the crime, and potential beneficiaries as well.

Chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s failure to keep the BJP flock together may have earned him the distrust of a section of his party MLAs and ministers, who turned to the opposition camp for succour. But the main opposition Congress and the JD(S), which have made common cause with the disgruntled BJP legislators to try and topple the government, are no better.

In the May 2008 state Assembly election, when all the three major political parties failed to muster a simple majority of 113 in the 225-member House, only the BJP took the initiative of seeking the support of independent MLAs and forming the government.
The Congress and the JD(S), who are now willingly lending their shoulder to the disgruntled BJP group, in the hope of at least a brief tryst with power, could have done so soon after the election verdict. Such a move would not have put an elected, functioning government in jeopardy midway. Instead, they frittered away the opportunity on the moral ground that they would rather abide by people’s mandate and sit in the opposition. Wither that morality now? Wither the empathy with voter sentiment? Power is an aphrodisiac, they say.

Tumultuous tenure

As for Yeddyurappa, in spite of all his obsessive preoccupation with gods and seers, his political star chart never seemed to favour him throughout his tumultuous two-and-a-half-year tenure. Even after he succeeded in forming the government, he could not rest on his laurels as he was faced with the task of making it topple-proof by poaching opposition MLAs through his infamous Operation Lotus. And when he tried to barter ministerial berths for the loyalty of these MLAs, it set off intra-party rebellion. In fact, dissidence has been Yeddyurappa’s constant companion.

Elections were the second time guzzler. Apart from the byelections caused by Operation Lotus, there were polls to fill up vacant MP seats from Karnataka, civic elections and then the gram panchayat polls. That apart, one of the worst floods hit the state and the mismanagement of relief operations by the government brought more disrepute to the dispensation.

Scams, especially involving government land, and money-grubbing are the latest taints of the already beleaguered BJP government. As if all these troubles were not enough, the recent disqualification of 11 disgruntled BJP MLAs, besides some independents, has put the first BJP government in the south in an unenviable predicament. With the disqualified lot moving court, a verdict favouring the BJP would necessitate holding of byelections to fill the vacancies arising, within the next six months.

If the single judge, who has reserved his decision, upholds the contention of the litigant legislators and sets aside their disqualification, the BJP will still have to break the opposition ranks and further reduce their strength to safeguard its own majority status.
Throughout this two-and-a-half-year troubled saga of the Yeddyurappa government, the BJP’s central leadership has at best played the role of a party spoiler. Barring periodic declarations that there will be no change in leadership, the party high command has done precious little to help the chief minister deliver and save the party government’s image.

With political horsetrading, stings and ‘doctored’ tapes being the order of the current BJP regime and an equally ramshackle opposition, an academic debate is hotting up: Do, we the people, deserve a peace-loving, relatively clean and stable Karnataka being turned into a rogue state?

(Published 22 October 2010, 17:04 IST)

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