Karnataka: A sordid drama has ended

Karnataka: A sordid drama has ended

Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy during the state legislative assembly session at the Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru on July 23, 2019. AFP

The inevitable has finally happened, with the Kumaraswamy government falling after days of political manoeuvring and attempts to win over the rebel legislators failed to bear fruit. Change of governments is a part of the democratic process, but the manner in which this sordid drama unfolded not only brought disrepute to the state but also exposed the abysmal depths to which our politicians can plunge for the sake of power and pelf. The role of every constitutional authority right from the MLA to the Governor, the Chief Minister, the Speaker and the Supreme Court, has been called into question for their failure to uphold the spirit of the Constitution.

The MLAs made a mockery of the anti-defection law by resigning from their seats to change the composition of the Assembly and reduce the ruling coalition to a minority. The Supreme Court acted in haste by passing three diametrically opposite orders in a span of a week. The court also ordered that rebel MLAs could not be forced to participate in the trust vote, which contradicts the provisions of the anti-defection law that provides for disqualification of legislators who defy the party whip. HD Kumaraswamy used every trick in the book to cling on to power for as long as possible though it was apparent from day one that he had lost majority. Though Speaker Ramesh Kumar went strictly by the Constitution, it left little doubt that, despite his protestations of impartiality, he was doing his best to give the government some leeway to cobble up a majority. Governor Vajubhai Vala tried to play his part in hastening the government’s fall by directing that the confidence motion be put to vote within a specified time, thereby encroaching upon the powers of the Speaker who is the master of the House. The Opposition BJP professed its innocence in the resignation and defection drama, though its fingerprints and footprints were all over.

The drama may be far from over, however, as the fate of the rebel MLAs who have resigned has not yet been decided by the Speaker. There could be another constitutional crisis if tomorrow the Speaker rejects all the resignations. Besides, the BJP today has a majority in the truncated Assembly and not in the full House of 224 members. This mathematics could change when by-elections are held for the seats vacated by the rebels. The Karnataka episode only proves that some provisions of the Constitution, including the Tenth Schedule and the sweeping powers of the presiding officer, need a re-look. Unless some provisions are codified, there will be no end to the misuse of the Constitution.