There are no saints in politics. And no longer is it a place for the squeamish and the ethical. The Karnataka developments have fully revealed yet again the ugly face of Indian politics. No one stands out for adherence to any morals. As they say, Is hamam mein sab nangey hain. Thanks to a very obliging Governor Vajubhai Vala, the BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa was sworn in as chief minister on Thursday morning. That was not before a desperate Congress resorted to a last-ditch gambit, knocking at the door of the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, at midnight, to try and stall the installation of the BJP government.
A three-judge bench set up at a moment’s notice heard the arguments for and against the swearing-in for nearly three hours before adjourning without providing any relief to the petitioners at well past five on Thursday morning. Now, the Congress-JD(S) plea to try and achieve through a judicial intervention what they failed to achieve from the Governor and earlier from the voters in Karnataka will be taken up on Friday. Of course, dragging in of the judiciary into the petty political power games does not augur well for the health of our democracy. Now that the Governor has presented a fait accompli, and Yeddyurappa is duly sworn in, all that the petitioners can hope to extract from a reluctant court, which, left to itself, would not intervene in such matters, is a reduction in the 15-day period given to the new CM to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly.
The suspense as to how he will do it, given that he is short by at least eight members in the 222-strong Assembly, ought to keep the entire political class and along with it much of the country guessing. The fear of poaching has unleashed what has come to be called the ‘resort politics’, with the Congress herding its lot in a luxury resort owned by a wealthy minister in the Siddaramaiah government while the JD(S) has penned its lot in a five-star hotel in Bengaluru. Quite clearly, fears of poaching openly acknowledge that some of the MLAs might be open to allurements. The confidence the BJP displays would suggest that it may have already sewn up the deal with the requisite number of MLAs from the Congress-JD(S) combine. Besides, being in power at the Centre also provides the BJP a great leverage, with the party holding the threat of president’s rule in case Yeddyurappa were to fail the majority test. Media reports that the party intends to get some half-a-dozen MLAs of the Congress-JD(S) to resign and force a fresh election in their constituencies. Some of them could be accommodated in the legislative council while others could be fielded on the BJP ticket in the resulting by-elections. The strategy makes a mockery of the anti-defection law, but no law can succeed in enforcing correct behaviour if those expected to observe it are hell-bent on mischief. Unfortunately, when the founding fathers allowed the governors a measure of discretion in deciding as to who shall they invite for government-formation, they did not reckon with the complete absence of ethics and morality from politics.
Our politicians, like our businessmen, are always a step ahead of the law, always adept at gaming the system. Indeed, the tamasha orchestrated by the non-BJP parties staking fresh claims for government formation in Bihar, Manipur, Goa, etc, on the basis that they constituted the largest groups in the respective Assemblies merely makes a mockery of the constitutional process. It should be clear by now that there are no hard and fast rules for government-formation. And, let it be noted, that the abuse of the Constitution in this regard began way back in 1957 when the Nehru Government at the instance of his loving daughter, Indira Gandhi, who was then the Congress Party president, dismissed the Nambooripad Government. It was the first democratically elected communist government anywhere in the world, though it did enjoy full majority when dismissed. The point is that the Centre has always sought to have State governments of its liking as far as possible within the broad electoral parameters. In the case of Karnataka, the BJP emerged by far the single largest party and had a better claim on government formation than the two other parties which came together only with the objective of keeping the largest party out while seeking to enjoy the fruits of power. With a helpful governor and a benign Centre, this was too much to expect. Now, in the next few days the real game of deal-making with individual MLAs would begin culminating in a floor test which, we would be highly surprised, if it failed to endorse the Governor’s decision.