Karnataka governor's decision to invite BS Yeddyurappa to form government is a correct, bold one

When Rahul Gandhi warns about democracy being in danger in the context of the Karnataka election, irony actually dies a million deaths.

Tuhin A Sinha May 17, 2018 18:43:34 IST
Karnataka governor's decision to invite BS Yeddyurappa to form government is a correct, bold one

Even as I sit down to write this article, Rahul Gandhi is reported to have made another juvenile statement. Apparently, the persona non-grata of Indian politics has equated the judiciary in BJP-ruled India with Pakistan. Well, well, hats off to the eternal kid of Indian politics who refuses to grow up and to his hapless party who can’t grow beyond him, come what may.

Anyway, I won’t waste this article on the rants of a perpetual loser, as there are more relevant issues at play, especially in the chaos of Karnataka verdict.

The Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite BS Yeddyurappa to form the Karnataka government has raised a storm, what with the Congress moving the Supreme Court and calling it the murder of democracy. Through precedents, which include legal, moral as well as historical perspectives, I will explain why the Governor has taken a firm, bold decision, which needs to be welcomed.

Gandhiji had famously said, “What is morally wrong, cannot be politically correct!”, So, what is morally wrong here? A) A party which has won nearly 47 percent seats and is marginally short of majority, staking claim and saying it should be given the first chance of government formation because the public sentiment is largely in its favour. Or B) A regional party with 38 seats and which barely two weeks ago had released a chargesheet against the Congress accusing it of corruption, criminalisation and dividing people, now wanting to form government with the support of the same Congress party. Moreover, even as the two parties claim that they have come together to fight communal forces, it is worth remembering that Rahul Gandhi had barely ten days ago dared the JD(S) to come clean on whether the “S” in its name stood for secular or Sangh.

Karnataka governors decision to invite BS Yeddyurappa to form government is a correct bold one

BJP workers celebrate in Bengaluru. PTI

The promiscuity of small-time regional parties

The Congress is a shameless entity. Whenever it has been voted out of power, it has clung on to power through the back door. The Congress backed the Charan Singh government in 1979 and the Deve Gowda government in 1996. These two are the best examples of the Congress’ opportunism. Hence, for the Congress to throw its lot behind the JD(S) is no big deal, considering that Congress is fighting an existential crisis in the country. The JD(S) , on the other hand, is a peculiar regional party, in the sense that it is probably the only regional party which has never won even 30 percent of the Assembly seats in the only state where it exists. Ever since Deve Gowda became the prime minister in 1996, his son, HD Kumaraswamy, was led to believe that a similar stroke of luck might make him the chief minister of Karnataka.

Since both the BJP and JD(S) fought a bitter battle against the ruling Congress, quite clearly, the verdict per se is against the incumbent government. In this situation, the only ethical thing for JD(S) to do is to either support the BJP from outside (or abstain from voting) or to join a coalition government led by the BJP. By colluding with the Congress, both parties have bared their promiscuous character. Their getting together, until the JD(S) publicly withdraws the ‘chargesheet’ or apologises for misleading people, is by all means subverting the mandate of the people.

Hence, in this case, neither the Congress nor the JD(S) are in any position to take a moral high ground here. Rather, their coming together is a most illicit, evil act and a sabotage of the election verdict.

Historical perspective

To the the quasi-intellectual Lutyen’s media which has been quoting the Bommai case verdict to lash out at the Karnataka governor’s decision, quite frankly the Bommai case verdict doesn’t really apply here. The Bommai case verdict pertained to the unfair dismissal of a state government without being given due chance to prove majority on the floor of the House. Hence, the situation where this verdict applied the most was in Gujarat in 1996 when instead of following the guidelines of the Bommai verdict, the then prime minister, Deve Gowda murdered the essence of it by unfairly dismissing the Suresh Mehta-led BJP government and installing Shankersinh Vaghela as chief minister.

The precedents which really matter in the present situation are those of the successive Lok Sabha verdicts of 1989, 1991 and 1996.

In 1989, the Congress party was the single largest party with 192 seats, whereas a pre-poll alliance of JD-Left parties and the BJP was way ahead. The President invited the latter to form the government. In 1991, the Congress party secured 244 seats, well short of a majority. Yet, in the absence of a pre-poll alliance, it formed the government and relied on issue-based support from the Left and other parties. It managed to run the government for the full 5-year term. In 1996, yet again the single largest party, the BJP was invited to form the government with only 161 seats because there was no pre poll alliance. Unlike in 1991, the Vajpayee government could not get the support of other parties and had to resign before the floor test. But the point remains that it would have been unethical to bar the single largest party from making the first attempt. The intellectual thuggery of ‘secular’ parties then, had them prefer an unholy alliance instead, supported by the usual suspect Congress. This government lasted less than two years and saw the back of two prime ministers.

It is this precedent which should be followed always, barring a few exceptions.

What is in store?

In the same way as infidelity in a relationship is not always physical, horse-trading in politics is not always monetary. But when a party like the JD(S) makes a baseless claim of its MLAs being offered huge sums, the fact is that this is what the party's politics stands for. A party with 38 MLAs staking claim for the chief minister’s chair is the most brazen act of horse-trading. As of today, anything is possible. Theoretically, the BJP could offer the Deputy chief minister's post to someone in the JD(S) who can break away from the party with a third of the MLAs, in addition to a central Ministry. The alternate possibility is that 8-9 Lingayat MLAs cutting across the Congress and the JD(S) could resign of their own volition and be rewarded later. Or in a worst case scenario, we might fail the floor test. In any case, democracy will still be the winner as the full process will be carried out instead of the first opportunity being given to an unholy, opportunist nexus that subverts the people’s verdict.

Karma is a nasty leveler

When Rahul Gandhi warns about democracy being in danger, irony actually dies a million deaths. For a party which has an unenviable history of electoral malpractices and back-door wrecking of elected state governments, the party should show more composure in dealing with unfavourable situations.

In 2005, the UPA had barred NDA from the chance of forming the government in Jharkhand, despite the numbers being stacked in the latter’s favour. What followed was one of the most embarrassing episodes in Indian democracy, at the end of which the Congress had to eat humble pie.

In 1987, it was the rigging of elections in Jammu and Kashmir by the Congress and National Conference that became an irreversible turning point for Kashmir. The list is a big one. One should rather treat Rahul Gandhi’s ignorance with sympathy, than enlighten him with facts which the rest of the Congress party remembers quite well.

This brings me to the first point. As Gandhi had said- “What is morally wrong cannot be politically right." What Gandhi did not elaborate on then and what is relevant in the Westminster form of democracy is this: What is morally wrong can sometimes still be legally fine. In which case, morality becomes subjective.

While it is advisable for any ruling party to lead by example and take a moral high ground, at times, the baggage of prolonged bad karma, doesn’t let you be in peace. The Congress today is paying for its sins accumulated over the decades.

Tuhin Sinha is an author and young BJP leader

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