Stop Making Karnataka Out To Be Big Blow For BJP

Published: May 21, 2018 20:32 IST
Now that the BJP has lost the prestige battle in Karnataka, predictably Left-Liberal cheerleaders are out, all guns blazing, lampooning the party and its top leaders. But on cooler reflection it needs to be asked what wrong did the BJP do, once the results were out? Let's assess the facts:

1) BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the assembly with a tally of 104 seats compared to 78 of the Congress and 37 of JD(S).

2) The duly elected leader of its legislature party, BS Yeddyurappa, was invited to form the government after he staked claim as the leader of the single -largest party.

3) Meanwhile, the second and third largest parties in the assembly, namely the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) quickly cobbled together a post-poll alliance and demanded a shot at power. Past precedent suggested that the Governor could have chosen either option: invite the single-largest party and ask it to prove its majority or ask the second-largest party and/or its associates and offer them the first chance.

In the event, as we all know, Governor Vajubhai Vala opted to call the BJP first. There being no pre-determined formula about how a Governor is to exercise his legally-conferred "discretion", Vala cannot be constitutionally faulted for asking Yeddyurappa to take oath. Where he probably showed bias was in allowing the BJP 15 long days to prove its majority although even that is not unprecedented.

The Congress swung into action in the Supreme Court and got the trust vote advanced to two days. Faced with certain defeat on the floor of the House, Yeddyurappa chose to resign even before the vote was taken, paving the way for the leader of the No. 3 party, HD Kumaraswamy, to ascend the Chief Minister's chair later this week.

From the recall of the facts of the drama since May 15 when the results came out, it is clear that the BJP did nothing wrong by staking claim to office or by forming a government. If the Governor showed undue favour by giving 15 days for it to prove its majority, the BJP is not to be faulted for the Governor's largesse. Governors and Speakers of legislative bodies have in the past been known to act according to their political predilections resulting in far more serious miscarriages of justice.
yeddyurappa oath pti

The BJP is not to be faulted for the Governor's largesse, if the Governor showed undue favour by giving 15 days for it to prove its majority.

In the unsettled 1960s, the then Speaker of the West Bengal assembly, one Bijoy Singh Nahar simply declared a pro-Communist government to be "illegal", adjourned the House sine die and walked out, preventing the Budget from being tabled! The case of UP Governor Romesh Bhandari in the 90s, which resulted in a farcical scenario of two "Chief Ministers" (Kalyan Singh and Jagdambika Pal) being seated on either side of the Speaker while MLAs queued up to vote for one or the other, is relatively recent history.

Things have changed a lot from those wildly arbitrary days but even now, the scope of a Governor's discretion has not been defined. Therefore, much as many may be unhappy with Governor Vala's conduct, he was not wrong on procedure. The Supreme Court intervened to rectify his bias, but stopped short of reprimanding him.

The BJP, therefore, acted in accordance with constitutional propriety and quit office when it failed to gather the required numbers. Whether it attempted horse-trading is a matter of conjecture and, in any case, the Congress-JD(S) combine too pulled out all stops to hold its MLAs captive and even procure some more.

Some have argued that a Governor is required to take into account the stability factor before inviting one or the other group to form a government if an election throws up a fractured verdict. That may be a desirable criterion, but can it be predicted that a coalition will be stable especially if it has come into being out of exigency and not by premeditated choice? In other words, there was nothing to suggest that a hastily-cobbled alliance between the Congress and JD(S) would ensure political stability in Karnataka, whereas a BJP-led group would not. No Governor can be asked to become a crystal ball-gazer and vouch for stability of any political alliance.

It is often said these days "jo jeeta wohi sikandar," but the question in Karnataka is "jeeta kaun?" (who won?) Even if Mr Kumaraswamy wins his trust vote (which he presumably will), it will not determine the victor of the 2018 polls which did not thrown up a clear mandate for any of the protagonists. JD(S) has cohabited with both the BJP and Congress at different points of time. It is perfectly possible that the horses in Karnataka may well change mid-stream. In any case, righteous indignation shown by the Left-Libs in recent days would be entirely unwarranted given the current political morality (or lack of it).

Undoubtedly, however, the outcome in Karnataka will have a major impact on the shape of politics in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. To begin with, the Congress has finally tasted some success (after a string of bitter failures) which augurs well for Rahul Gandhi who has just taken over the reins of the party. He has also demonstrated that the party can gain by shedding its imperious behavior and must stoop to conquer. This will give confidence to many regional parties that hesitated to join hands with the Congress given its past record of high-handedness.
narendra modi amit shah

The BJP's detractors will try hard to dent the image of party president Amit Shah's fabled invincibility.

As for the BJP, nothing much is lost. It did not have power in Karnataka and despite trying hard, failed to get it. This can be temporarily demoralizing for the cadre and its detractors will try hard to dent the image of party president Amit Shah's fabled invincibility. But crucial assembly polls in BJP-held Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will soon be upon both the Congress and BJP. There is no doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will reinvigorate the party and lead it to a no-hold-barred battle before the year is out.

The efficacy of any anti-BJP alliance will not be tested in the remaining months of 2018. In states where regional parties matter and where their alliance with the Congress has the potential to throw up a challenge, their strength won't be tested this year.

It is 2019 which will decide India's fate for the coming decade. And from all accounts, Narendra Modi remains the front-runner.

(Dr. Chandan Mitra is a journalist, currently Editor of The Pioneer Group of Publications. He is also former BJP MP, Rajya Sabha.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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