The Karnataka saga


The Karnataka Assembly elections saga needs no rehash. What calls for attention though is how elections ~ a major hallmark of democracy ~ and government formation play out in India. The issue of who should form a government is also actually a well-established convention and practice since Independence therefore the Karnataka Governor creating a controversy calls for a revisit of Governors’ roles. Coalition governments in several states in India are also a reality with regional parties giving national parties a run for their money, especially after Emergency. But here again against the backdrop of the debate about pre and post electoral alignment during the Karnataka sage ~ and the usage of undefined terms such as “unholy alliance(s)” vis-à-vis pre and/or post electoral alliances, we see some political parties cocking a snock at constitutional provisions, which if allowed to gain grounds, is ominous for Indian democracy. If we go by the BJP daubing the Congress-JD (S) alliance in Karnataka as “unholy” because this alliance is post polls, then what about Nagaland wherein the NPP particularly had a pre-poll alliance with the NPF that was widely published in our local newspapers? The same could be asked of post-poll alliances the BJP itself has with several parties in several other states. So, “holy” or “unholy” alliances are also a new perception in coalition politics in India ~ coming across more as a desperate attempt to legitimize breach of constitutional provisions vis-à-vis government formations. The Supreme Court could well take a call on the constitutional role of Governors or political parties in power may have to revisit the criteria for appointing suitable people as Governors therefore we will have to wait till such time the Supreme Court makes a call or political parties revive the spirit of the Constitution that envisaged the quality of people with sagacity and statesmanship, who ought be appointed as Governors. Now, let us focus on the quality of people elected as our representatives. While the Congress and the JD (S) in Karnataka claimed that they had to “protect” their MLAs from being poached by the BJP that was allegedly trying to win them over through lucrative offers, threats, etc., the question is: why do our elected members to state Legislative Assemblies reduce themselves to purchasable commodities? In 2003, Nagaland has seen a political party winning the majority seats but another political party managed to form the government by allegedly poaching and horse-trading although that would be hotly denied and debated now ~ anyway, what was feared to happen in Karnataka has been happening in Nagaland and other states particularly in the Northeast for decades. In fact, the “opposition-less government” we saw in Nagaland till the other day is also a case in point. So, why are elected representatives in state Assemblies so vulnerable to poaching and horse-trading? Of course, we know the reasons but aren’t these reasons totally contradictory to the spirit of constitutional democracy in India? Also, why do we keep on electing the same people routinely knowing that they have no integrity and no allegiance to the constitutional spirit and party ideologies? What have the people gained by electing the very same people repeatedly if they have to be “safeguarded” from being poached and hose-traded? Can we also then surmise that the people have not understood the spirit of the constitutional provisions therefore have not prioritized integrity and other values and principles of those we elect as leaders, which are critical for good governance? The Karnataka saga also brings to the fore how governments are formed in most states in India particularly in the Northeast ~ not least in Nagaland ~ in the past few years. Yes, the Karnataka saga is indeed a shameful blot on Indian democracy because it exposed the lacunae in the kind of democracy practiced in the country where the letter is distorted to dominate over the spirit. However, the Karnataka saga is a watershed in Indian democracy because it revealed how much it is a prototype of how political parties in the country, especially the currently dominant ones, have distorted our democracy beyond recognition from what was originally envisaged by our founding and constitutional fathers. Now that the Supreme Court has taken serious view of how the country is governed directly or indirectly hopefully India will see a course correction of democratic practices. Meanwhile, it looks like the Karnataka saga is far from over and will impact on the 2019 parliamentary elections.