The Demise of Karnataka's Coalition Government
After 14 months, the JDS-Congress Alliance in Karnataka was rendered obsolete. By subverting anti-defection law, BJP has established its rule in Karnataka.
The state of Karnataka has always been a breathing ground for unstable governments. It should come as a surprise, only three chief ministers -- all from the Congress -- have been able to complete their full five-year term in the history of Karnataka. Sadly, H.D. Kumaraswamy--the leader of JDS-Congress coalition--didn't make the cut. After Chief Minister of Karnataka --or should we say-- now-former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy came up short on the votes to prove majority in the house, he tendered in his resignation to Governor Vajubhai Vala after serving 14 months in office. It wasn't precisely a novel experience for Kumaraswamy who had failed to complete a full term not once but twice as a result of this fateful turn of events. Kumaraswamy's first stint as chief minister in the BJP-led coalition government lasted less than two years from February 2006 to October 2007.
The state of national politics is in disarray. To over paraphrase revered author and human rights activist, James Baldwin --to be relatively conscious in this world is to be in a constant state of rage and confusion. If you've been paying attention -- we extend our deepest sympathies if you are -- you might have noticed the political events transpiring around the world has the atmosphere of an absurd play. The antics in the United States has become fodder for every comedian's humor around the world. One man's political ineptitude is another man's butt of the jokes. The UK's Brexit fiasco almost crippled the nations economic stability. One can only hope the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister will avail a concrete resolution. The turmoil in the Middle East is nowhere close to winding down. It remains as de-stabilized as ever. And all this barely scratches the surface on the tumultuous state of national politics. So, It was only a matter of time before troubles came knocking on Karnataka's doors.
Following their win in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP managed to stage a successful coup in the Congress run state and skirt around the anti-defection law by getting 11 Congress and JD(S) MLAs to resign from the membership of the House. Karnataka has 224 assembly seats. After the 2018 assembly elections, BJP was the largest party with 105 seats, eight short of the 113-majority mark. The Congress with 79 seats and JD(S) with 37 had allied to keep the BJP out of power. However, by inducing the MLA's to abdicate their positions, BJP will once again rule the state, years after Yeddyurappa led the BJP to a historic victory in 2008 and became a chief minister but had to quit in 2011 due to alleged corruption.
The anti-defection law was put into place in to protect the tenets of a democratic electoral process. It prohibits the elected representatives to abdicate their positions lured by the promise of office, cash or other considerations.
The sanctity of the electoral process is preserved in the trust between the electorate and the elected representative. But by circumventing the anti-defection law, BJP has created a malarkey of the democratic process. They've turned the citizens into mute spectators in the theatre of the absurd.
During a debate in the Karnataka Assembly on the occasion of the trust vote on July 18 the Speaker, KR Ramesh Kumar (a Congress leader) said, "In your one-upmanship and power struggle, you're all not thinking about what is happening to democracy. I'm tired of all this. How long should I be witness to all this? The people are watching us".
It would be easy to assign the sole blame on BJP's doors. However, the other political factions have a one time or another been guilty of this charge. The anti-defection law was bought in parliament in 1985, by Rajiv Gandhi after he was elected into power. The law would prohibit party hopping and ensure party loyalty and in-turn good governance. When parties resort to horse-trading, it inevitably-stabilizes the government. But still, they carry on. In 2018, following the assembly elections that rendered a fractured mandate, Congress leader D K Shivakumar rallied the MLA's for a trust vote by taking them to a private hotel, which resulted in a coalition government.
Governments rise, governments fall. But when it falls apart at an alarming frequency, it should be a cause for concern. When it falls due to a subversion of laws that protect the tenets of democracy, it should give us pause. When a government falls, it derails society's economic growth and invariably robs its citizens of opportunities. This is the most uncertain of times. As citizens, we can only hope the new government -- now that it's in place -- will henceforth pick progress to theatrics. Meanwhile, it's our due-diligence to stay vigilant; hold the government accountable for their institutional failures; prompt them to do better and remember, "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves."