Karnataka coalition faces a huge challenge

It is a bane of the way democracy is run in this country that the Speaker of the State Assembly who is supposed to be an epitome of impartiality almost invariably tilts towards the ruling party or parties whenever the challenge of taking a stand comes to the fore. In that context, the action of the Speaker of the Karnataka assembly, K R Ramesh Kumar, in rejecting the resignations of nine of the 14 members of the Congress-Janata Dal (S) combine in the ongoing political drama on ground that they were not tendered in the correct format is questionable. The Speaker’s decision gives the Congress-JD (S) combine ample room to pull the tottering coalition out of the political crisis into which it has plunged. For those whose resignations have been found to be in order, the Speaker has fixed dates over the next few days to ‘interview’ them to ascertain their position first hand. Had the resignations been accepted, the alliance would have been reduced to a minority 0f 103 in the 224-member House after two independent MLAs too withdrew support and resigned. The Speaker’s new stratagem will give the ruling coalition time to cajole or entice the deserting legislators and will therefore put the Opposition BJP at a disadvantage.

The correct, logical and fair course would have been for the Speaker to convene the State Assembly into session and test the strength of the contending parties on the floor of the Assembly. That he has delayed that unmasks the intention of the presiding officer to try and avert the fall of the H D Kumaraswamy government. This is not an isolated case. Such motivated stand has defined the attitude of Assembly Speakers in a plethora of cases across the country. Equally, the action of parties in whisking away MLAs to locations distant from the seat of power to be kept in virtual command of the leaders has become a regular practice and is equally a subversion of democracy. It would be prudent for the courts to cry a stop to this unfair practice. That in the case of Karnataka too this has been resorted to is regrettable indeed. That a current minister belonging to the Congress, K Shivakumar, has been bankrolling such operations of whisking legislators away to five-star locations, wining and dining them, and seeking to influence their political thinking is no secret. It is such acts that are giving democracy a bad name before the people.

It remains to be seen when the Assembly would be convened and whether the Governor, who was a protégé of Prime Minister Modi when the latter was chief minister in Gujarat, would intervene. With the BJP having virtually swept the Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka, the writing is on the wall that the electorate is unhappy with the current Kumaraswamy government for its poor performance and infighting. But legislators are afraid of fresh elections, fearing that they would be voted out. The next few days will hold the key.

Trump at odds with British bigwigs

American president Donald Trump is in the thick of controversy over disparaging remarks made about him by British envoy to US Sir Kim Darroch, the support extended to Darroch by British prime minister Theresa May and Trump’s retaliatory blasting of the UK envoy and of May. Some leaked e-mails revealed that the ambassador had called the Trump administration “clumsy and inept.” After the e-mail leaks, Trump called the UK ambassador “a very stupid guy” and went on to criticise Theresa May over Brexit, saying she had ignored his advice and gone her “own foolish way.” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt then accused Trump of being disrespectful towards Prime Minister May and of the UK, completing a full circle of digs at each other in defiance of protocol and propriety. This is not the first time Trump has taken on a fellow dignitary. His indiscretions have from time to time shocked the world and embarrassed his colleagues.

By any standards Trump has proved to be an unorthodox President, given to indiscretions that exceed all earlier examples. That the Democrats are baying for his impeachment is no secret. But Trump is undeterred. The question now on everyone’s lips is ‘will he or won’t he win a second term’ in the face of mounting criticism.

- S Sadanand

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