Some sanity now, please

Some sanity now, please

Karnataka Politics 

With the Yediyurappa-led BJP government winning the trust vote, one phase of the political drama appears to have come to an end -- to the extent that the uncertainty over the new government has been settled. Ironically, former Speaker Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify all the 17 ‘rebel’ MLAs of the Congress and JD(S), while it may have brought cheer to the leaders of the two parties, facilitated the smooth sailing of the Yediyurappa government in the trust vote.

Though highly knowledgeable legally, Kumar seems to have courted controversy in view of his decision to disqualify the ‘rebel’ MLAs. The Supreme Court had clearly asked him to decide on the resignation issue, which he chose to ignore. Viewed in this limited sense, he may incur the wrath of the Supreme Court when it deals with the petitions of the disqualified MLAs.

As for the disqualification, which clearly fell within his domain, going by the procedure laid down, the Speaker should have given time to the MLAs to make their submissions and then only taken a decision, which apparently Kumar did not follow. As we have noticed in the past, disqualification cases are long drawn-out and time-consuming.

Further, what has made the former Speaker’s ruling controversial is that the disqualified MLAs cannot contest elections for the reminder of the term of the present Assembly. The Election Commission, in the case of disqualified MLAs in Tamil Nadu, said that there is no such bar on them contesting by-elections. It, however, remains to be seen how the Supreme Court views the matter given the fact that Kumar has backed up his decision by citing the decision of the Vice President in the case of Sharad Yadav, etc.

As for the immediate future of Karnataka politics, it is clear that the Yediyurappa government is safe for now for two reasons. Firstly, since the government has won the trust vote, no ‘No Confidence’ motion can be moved by the Opposition parties for the next six months. Secondly, the legal battle which the disqualified MLAs are going to fight might take its own time and till it is resolved, if then, Yediyurappa is under no pressure to take them into his ministry.  

Even if the Supreme Court and the Election Commission were to permit the disqualified MLAs to contest the by-elections, it would expose the BJP if the party decided to give tickets to them. In any case, we should not forget the fact that the voters in those constituencies might decide to teach them a lesson, which they should really.

More important for our consideration is the impact of the three-week political drama on the political parties in Karnataka. As for the BJP, though it might be satisfied that it has unseated the Congress-JD(S) coalition government and risen to power itself, the party has exposed itself badly in the eyes of the citizens in view of the manner in which some of its leaders were seen with the ‘rebel’ MLAs, their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. The voters know very well that BJP’s goal was to come to power by any means. The political and electoral costs of such machinations will in all probability be heavy for the party.

That may be mitigated to some extent if the government takes a conscious decision to give primacy to governance, especially as the state is faced with drought in several districts. Yediyurappa has made the right noises by asking the chief secretary and deputy commissioners to visit the affected regions regularly and take steps to mitigate the hardship of the masses.

Farcical alliance

As for the Congress-JD(S) alliance, it is better if the farcical alliance ends. The alliance partners did not cooperate among themselves sincerely. Contrary to what Siddaramaiah said during the trust vote debate, they did not even draw up a common minimum programme, let alone working together. The alliance cost the two parties dearly in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Both parties would be well advised to take to the task of strengthening their rank and file, respect the wishes of loyal party workers and put themselves on the path to rebuilding their parties.

Additionally, the Congress should involve young and visionary leaders to refurbish its image. The party needs to rediscover its egalitarian and secular ideological moorings, rather than getting lost in day-to-day politics. Factionalism is its bane and the sooner the party puts an end to it, the better it is for its future.

To return to the centre stage in Karnataka politics, the party needs to work hard to regain its support base among the OBCs and SC/STs, many of whose support it seems to have lost, going by the social category of the MLAs who tendered their resignations recently. The minorities, specially the Muslims, too, cannot be taken for granted. This is a challenge that the party seniors will face in the days to come.

Regarding the Janata Dal(S), its national president HD Deve Gowda is a fighter and he has already announced plans to carry out padayatras in the rural side to rebuild the party. The party should, however, shed its dependence on the Gowda family and work hard to reinvent itself. The party needs to recruit and give important positions to caste/social groups other than the Vokkaliga community, which has been its sole support base.

Let us hope that the ‘nataka’ phase in Karnataka politics is behind us and citizens can look forward to a more sane, orderly and healthy politics in the days to come. Surely, that is not too much to ask!

(The writer is a former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University, and Senior Fellow, ICSSR)