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Architecture of the mandate

The lesson from Karnataka: the parties opposed to the BJP must work together from the word go

Mathematics is about numbers, and mathematics is an exact science. The addition, subtraction, division and multiplication of numbers in ganita is about getting problems right. Just that. Right. And a satisfaction is derived, both mathematical and aesthetic, in getting the exercise right. Precision is its sole dharma. Numbers, after a problem is done, stand still. They do not pull at each other, jumping from a plus to a minus, from the times or multiplication sign into an obelus or division sign. A sum does not try to or want to alter itself. The problem-solver or sum-beholder derives satisfaction from the purity of its precision.

Integrity of the arithmetic

Elections too are about numbers and are an exact exercise. But only until the sum is reached. That is, until the Election Commission finishes its calculations and declares the ‘sum’. The Election Commission counts and then announces the counts, and once it has done that, retires. After that has been done, the President in the case of Lok Sabha elections or the Governor in the case of Vidhan Sabha elections takes over. It is in their hands that the result of the counting converts itself into the pattern of seats in the elected House. The President or Governor then becomes the keeper of the sum’s integrity and has to see that the pattern of the sum is honoured by the pattern of the seats. In other words, the architecture of the sum is retained by the architecture of their power. The keeper has to see that the integrity of that architecture is not garbled to create a house different in shape from the blueprint of the sum’s design.

 

What was the blueprint of the design that the people of Karnataka drew? The blueprint came in four folds. All of us know them now only too well.

The first fold for the single largest party was the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP’s.

The second fold for the second largest party was the Congress’s.

The third fold for the third largest party was that of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S).

The fourth fold, which showed the first three in a pie, gave their relative shares: the first was smaller, if only slightly, than the second and third seen together.

We have to switch now from designs, graphs, squares and pies to what the Governor had to make of this four-fold design. We have to switch from arithmetic and geometry to a kind of algebra, the study of mathematical symbols, the rules for their handling, their groups, rings, fields. In other words, we have to switch now from how to move from the numbers to their mandate and see how a House is to be made from out of its mandate, a House for the mandate of the gana to dwell in. In this task, though working on and with numbers, a President or a Governor cannot function like a calculator. His task is mathematics plus ethics.

The Governor’s options

The Governor of Karnataka saw and may well have felt somewhat like this: If only Party One had just crossed the halfway mark and got a simple majority, his task would have been simple. He would have called its leader to form the government. But that did not happen. The people of Karnataka voted in greater strength against Party Number One than for it.

 

If only Party Two and Party Three had entered the election as a joint team, in what is called a pre-poll alliance, his work would again have been simple. He would have had to call that two-coloured rainbow to name its leader and invite him to take the oaths of office. But that too did not happen. The majority of the people of Karnataka voted against the BJP but they did not vote cohesively for the Congress-JD(S) combine.

So, the Governor did not get it all that simple. But was what he did get all that complicated? Not really.

Though not a pre-poll alliance, Parties Two and Three did get together with a verve and vim they did not show before the elections to become one, and not only drew up a joint list of the newly elected MLAs to be but also chose a joint leader, unconditionally. There is nothing in any electoral law or court verdict to say that a post-poll alliance is ab initio null, void and to be disregarded. True, a pre-poll alliance is a neater, more up-front arrangement, but a post-poll one is not out of order.

The numbers in Karnataka were clear. They showed the people’s integrated will, albeit in two frames hinged together requiring Parties Two and Three to be asked to form the government and seek the approval of the House by its users on its floor. If defeated, then ask Party One to try its luck.

That has not happened.

Had Party Two and Party Three not come together post-poll, Governor Vajubhai Vala could have ignored the fact that the non-BJP MLAs outnumber the BJP MLAs — and left it to the Chief Minister or the putative leader of the House to navigate his majority through the first confidence vote. But he has decided and that is that.

 

What now? With the two parties having come together, and out-numbering the BJP MLAs, the real test of their political integrity lies in their staying together and defeating the Yeddyurappa government in the first confidence vote. There is only one way in which they can do that. And that is by staying together, staying determined, and voting on vote day unitedly. Will they let their unity and determination, numerical strength, numerical integrity de diminished?

How may that be done? We know the way that happens.

The principle of it

With millions of other Indians I have a political position that opposes the ideology of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). But I also have a sense, again with millions of others, of a political ethics that tells me if the Congress had been in the position of single largest party in Karnataka as the BJP is in, and if the BJP and the JD(S) had got together post-poll as the single largest group, and if Governor Vala, citing the single largest party line, had called the Congress to form the government, I would have said exactly the same thing I have said here – in the reverse.

The lesson of the Karnataka Kanda is this: the parties opposed to the BJP and RSS’s ideology must work together from the word go, and not let the imponderables of post-election decision-making imperil the will of the people.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was Governor of West Bengal

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:58:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/architecture-of-the-mandate/article23918543.ece

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