Voters betrayed as Karnataka politics is at lowest ebb

Opinion

The Congress, on the other hand, largely left the campaigning to then chief minister Siddaramaiah, though Rajiv Gandhi, as party president, crisscrossed the different regions of the state in the final stages of campaign.

Politics in Karnataka is degenerating steadily and has become loathsome ever since the Congress-JD(S) coalition government came to power following the fractured mandate of May, 2018. The unprincipled and unethical aspect of the sordid political situation merits understanding from multiple dimensions.

Firstly, let us turn to the campaign by the three main parties to the electoral contest, namely the Congress, the BJP and the JD(S). It was marked by highly personalised attacks by the leaders against their adversaries, including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The intensity and the periodicity with which Modi campaigned itself was unprecedented as in the past PMs had not invested so much time and energy in state elections. But, for the BJP, Modi was (and is) their mascot and main vote catcher.

The Congress, on the other hand, largely left the campaigning to then chief minister Siddaramaiah, though Rajiv Gandhi, as party president, crisscrossed the different regions of the state in the final stages of campaign.

As for JD(S), Deve Gowda, its national president, was very much the local player enjoying a pan-Karnataka image. The leaders of all the three parties  carried out a highly personalised campaign which itself was utterly distasteful.

It is s worth recalling that during the campaign, Rahul Gandhi dubbed the JD(S) as the ‘B’ team of the BJP and went on to stress that the tussle for power was mainly between the Congress and the BJP. The JD(S) too took the Congress head on.

Finally, when the results came out and the BJP did not get a majority to form the government, the Congress swung into action in great speed to join hands with the very same JD whom it had dubbed as BJP’s B team to form a coalition government. Resort politics manifested itself with the Congress and JD putting their elected representatives under ‘house arrest’ in different cities to prevent poaching by the BJP.

The recent bout of resort politics even had its violent manifestations too between two Congress MLAs. The old cliche that politics is the last resort of a scoundrel  has come to be rewritten in Karnataka  to suit the local situation. The party leaders and the elected MLAs seldom bother how the people view their actions and behaviour.

Secondly, that the JD-Congress coalition government did not gel together well, became clear from the endless feuds between them over ministry formation and distribution of portfolios. Congressmen found it highly difficult to digest that despite having 78 MLAs, they were not being accommodated in key ministries.

Their frustration with the JD(S) grew as Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and Deve Gowda established direct equation with Rahul Gandhi and the party high command  directed them to refrain from doing anything which would rock the coalition boat.

The first cabinet expansion took an unduly long time with many in the Congress threatening to cross over to the BJP, leading to popular disdain about the pitiable position of state politics.

That Kumarswamy often issued confusing statements in the course of the last  six months that ‘he is CM because of the good will of Rahul Gandhi’ and that ‘he is nothing more than a clerk’ in the recent past, reflects both his helplessness and yet his desire to cling on to power.

It is an open secret that both Siddaramaiah and his loyalists are not happy with the coalition government led by Kumaraswamy. The same is evident in the statements of some of his loyalists that they consider only Siddaramaiah as their chief minister, leading to Kumarswamy and Deve Gowda warning the Congress leadership of dire consequences if things get out of hand.

The situation is highly volatile as is seen from the way the way the Budget session has started. One does not know whether this government will survive or not going by the machinations of politicians belonging to both the ruling and opposition parties.

Even if it survives, the differences between the coalition partners will surely surface in a big way over the issue of seat sharing regarding Lok Sabha elections. What worries the Congress leaders, including Siddaramaiah, and the rank and file, is that if the party high command decides to be soft on JD(S)’s demands keeping in mind its larger national political interests, it would affect the fortunes of the party at the state level significantly.

Taken for ride

The sorry state of the coalition government is compounded by the failure of the BJP to work as responsible Opposition consumed as it is by BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa’s desire to become the chief minister by toppling the government. That explains the periodic efforts at ‘Operation Kamala’.

In the entire process, in the ‘nataka’ in Karnataka, as the national media rightly describes it, the people are taken for a ride at a time when large parts of the state are facing drought crying for attention by the MLAs of both the ruling and opposition parties.

Popular disenchantment of politics and of politicians as unprincipled and selfish has reached its highest watermark. Karnataka which enjoyed a proud position in national politics for long is being looked down upon. Our politicians have let us down badly, to say the least.

A possible way out of this quagmire is for Kumaraswamy to seek a fresh mandate by dissolving the Assembly and going for polls along with LS elections. There is another option but that will not happen: the saner elements among the leaders in the Congress, BJP and JD(S) assert themselves, form an all party government as an unprecedented solution to the awfully pitiable situation in which the state is politically placed.

However, there must be political will to do so. Will either of the two happen is the million dollar question before us.

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

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