People betrayed, state’s image dented

People betrayed, state’s image dented

(PTI file photo)

Karnataka has been at the centre stage of politics at the national level, thanks to the machinations of all the key political players at the state level.

Over the decades, the state’s politics, starting from the time of chief ministers like Kengal Hanumanthaiah and Kadidal Manjappa, had enjoyed a fair share of admiration nationally. Their successors S Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil, Devaraj Urs, Ramakrishna Hegde, S M Krishna, to name a few, were tall leaders who presided over the state. They were visionary leaders and conducted politics on mostly healthy lines.

During their times, Karnataka was looked upon as a model state. Sadly, the state’s politics has degenerated in recent years, due largely to the self-aggrandisement strategies of the political class and their inability to treat politics and political office as opportunities to serve the state and its people.

As for the political mess in which the state is today, the origins of it should be traced to the highly opportunistic post-poll alliance that was hurriedly cobbled up by the Congress and the JD(S) to come to power after the fractured mandate of the 2018 Assembly elections.

The state was earlier witness to the unrealistic and totally unpleasant attempts of the BJP, under B S Yeddyurappa, to grab power based on his party being the single largest party in the Assembly although well short of majority, which he abandoned only after it became clear he would not be able to prove his majority in the House.  

This writer had written soon after the Congress-JD(S) combine had assumed office that the coalition government would not have a smooth sailing as the alliance was formed only to suit the interests of the top leaders of the two parties even as it lacked in support at the level of party workers. The results of the recent Lok Sabha election in the state proved it amply.

The coalition government talked of coming up with a common minimum programme (CMP), which has not happened to this day. No doubt a ‘coordination committee’ was set up under the chairmanship of former chief minister Siddaramaiah, but it did not accommodate any top level functionary from the JD(S). That was one of the reasons why A H Vishwanath, the party’s working president, resigned from his post recently.

In any case, the coordination committee has not really guided the government, leading to frequent friction between the coalition partners. The political instability that has been the feature of state politics during the last one year only emboldened the BJP to make frequent attempts to bring down the government. The intense factionalism within the Congress added to the political turmoil that resulted in the resignation of 13 Congress MLAs from the Assembly in recent days. The resignation of three JD(S) MLAs further added to the political drama that the state and the nation are witness to.

The resignation of MLAs, no matter what the members say, has happened at the instance and instigation of the state unit of the BJP, with the tacit support of its national leadership. The resignation of MLAs and the decision of the Speaker to examine the genuineness or otherwise of them as per Article 190 of the Constitution resulted in the matter coming up before the Supreme Court.

The SC made an interim order asking the Speaker to decide on the resignations as per his own time frame. But it also left it to the will of the ‘rebel’ MLAs holed up in a Mumbai luxury hotel to attend the confidence vote proceedings in the House or not, indicating clearly that they cannot be compelled to attend the House.

The Supreme Court has recognised that there are weighty constitutional issues involved in the matter and has decided to deal with them in the days to come and has asked the Speaker to communicate his decision on the resignations to the court.

Given that such resignations by MLAs have become a feature of Indian politics, it is only appropriate that the issue, which involves the role of constitutional functionaries like the Speaker and the court itself, is dealt with in a decisive manner. The Karnataka crisis should be an opportunity to the Supreme Court to lay down clear guidelines for a smooth and legal way of settling such issues in the future.

Whichever way the Karnataka political tangle gets settled it is surely an unpleasant chapter in state politics. The manner in which many of the elected representatives, of all political parties, have behaved in recent times shows their utter disregard to the aspirations of the people of the state.

Simply put, they have betrayed the people. It is high time the political parties themselves resolved to introduce norms to ensure that new members serve them for a minimum of five years before they are given tickets to contest for elections.

(The writer is a former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University)