Karnataka will continue to face political instability whether the present Kumaraswamy government survives or a new BJP government takes over.
The ‘Aya ram, gaya ram’ culture will continue in view of the fragility of the government. Even if the BJP forms the government that too would face the same fate sooner or later because of the blackmailing capacity of the rebels and the new entrants from the Congress and the JD (S).
Whatever be the character and complexion of the new state government, only fresh elections and a clear verdict will save the state. Karnataka sadly has seen political instability for the past two decades and more because of the frequent fractured verdicts and opportunistic politicians. These had resulted in strange coalition experiments.
Having a hung assembly is not anything new and also there is nothing wrong in parties forming alliances. But the track record of politics in Karnataka is simply different and more eventful. The only glue for the coalition is power. The 2018 Assembly results also produced such a fractured verdict, which resulted in an unnatural Congress- JD (S) coalition coming to power though the BJP emerged as the single largest party.
The inability of the short-lived BJP government led by Yediyurappa to prove its majority paved the way for the Congress-JDS to form an alliance and come to power under the leadership of HD Kumaraswamy. It faced challenges from multiple fronts.
The hiatus between the two coalition partners, the ego clashes, the aspirations of rebels, groupism, indiscipline and money power used for horse-trading were all responsible for the current state of affairs. The BJP could not swallow the fact that despite emerging as the single largest party, the state came to be ruled by the Congress-JD (S) coalition.
It was itching to pull down the coalition government. From day one, the Kumaraswamy government was shaky with internal squabbles and power struggles between the two parties and also within the Congress. The chief minister has gone public about his inability to run the state and has even shed tears. Former chief minister Siddharamaiah has been smarting for being asked to give away the chief minister’s post to the JD (S).
While a section of the JD (S) is charging Siddharamaiah with being instrumental for the resignations, the latter had opened up a hostile front against the rebel legislators seeking immediate disqualification. There were factional fights in the Congress between Siddharamaaih and Deputy chief minister Parameswara. How could a coalition function normally when it came to power mainly to keep the BJP out of power?
The present political drama which Karnataka is facing is not unexpected particularly after the BJP got 25 of the 28 seats in the recent 2019 Lok Sabha polls while the Congress-JD (S) coalition won just three. It was only a matter of days and weeks for the government to fall. The latest spate of resignations of legislators is a logical step forward.
The Karnataka drama once again highlights the loopholes in the present anti-defection laws, which the political parties fully use and misuse. The absurd ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ culture first started in 1967 when a Haryana legislator Gaya Lal changed his party thrice within the same day.
He switched from the Congress to the United Front and back to the Congress and then to the United Front again – all within the same day. The Ninth Schedule of the Constitution which pertains to the anti-defection act was amended by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 to prevent such defections and stop politicians from changing parties for personal benefits in the form of lure of office.
But wily politicians find some loopholes in the present laws and skirt around it. The anti-defection laws should be looked at afresh in view of the continuing trend of horse-trading. Stringent punishment should be provided for errant legislators and the practice of resort politics should also be done away with .
The provision that allows a group to break away with a two-thirds majority also needs to be examined afresh, considering that some assemblies like those in the North-east have just 40 or 60 members. Even one or two legislators changing sides could tilt the balance. Above all, political parties should not indulge in horse trading as the legislators who are bought would only remain true to money and not to the party they have defected to.
Once the laws are made fool proof, this can be tackled but who will bell the cat? It suits all parties to have these loopholes so that they can benefit in times of need. Therefore, Karnataka continues and so will other fragile states in future.