Editorial

Instant reward: On Karnataka defection politics

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Karnataka gets political stability, even though it was achieved via dubious means

Instant reward, not punishment, is what people willed for Karnataka lawmakers who defected from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) to the BJP and sought a fresh mandate in by-elections held on December 5. Their defection and subsequent resignation from the legislature led to the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka, paving the way for the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in July, led by B.S. Yediyurappa. With the BJP winning 12 of the 15 seats to which by-elections were held, the party now has 117 MLAs and a comfortable majority in the Assembly. The party had fallen short of a majority in the 2018 election that threw up a hung legislature. The post-poll alliance of the JD(S) and the Congress was a legitimate move to end the impasse, but it was destined to be unstable. The JD(S) strength was less than half of the Congress strength, but its leader H.D. Kumaraswamy became the Chief Minister. The BJP, particularly Mr. Yediyurappa, turned the resentment in the Congress camp to his advantage. In a replay of similar sequence of events in the past, MLAs resigned, as if on cue. Sixteen of those MLAs were promptly admitted to the BJP, and 13 were fielded as its candidates. The Chief Minister hinted on Monday that at least 11 of the 12 winners would be given ministerial berths.

The Central leadership of the BJP had appeared to be keeping an arm’s-length from the developments in Karnataka at the beginning but it was quick to own up to the victory on Monday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself terming it as a popular rejection of the Congress. He accused the Congress of subverting the 2018 mandate. The BJP had won 104 seats in the 224-strong Assembly in 2018 and its majority today has been won through a devious route. What rankles is the fact that there is now a Karnataka model of achieving a majority by engineering an adequate number of by-elections through highly questionable means. In the present instance, it is legitimised by the voters but that is no reason to overlook the undermining of democratic processes. The BJP must be happy that its strategy succeeded but it must also reflect on the cost to democracy this might entail. Now that it has a clear mandate, the BJP must focus on governance and walk the extra mile to reassure the public on its commitment to democratic behaviour. The State’s capital Bangalore is also a key centre of Indian economy and political stability there has a larger import for the country. The setback could trigger changes in the Congress also. Party chief Dinesh Gundu Rao and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah have resigned their respective posts. The party should reflect deeply on its character and strategy as an alternative to the BJP. Political opposition without a foundational ideological basis cannot be the answer.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 11:14:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/instant-reward/article30270121.ece

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