The grand old party (Congress) of India appears in high spirits and buoyant mood after Karnataka events and some even hold that they it was a good revenge on their principal political rivals, more appropriate to say enemy, the BJP, after bad experiences in Goa and Manipur last year in 2017. The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka - a much bigger state, with only seven MLAs short of majority yet failed to muster requisite numbers in the Vidhan Sabha to prove majority. In fact, the Congress took a smart initiative to forge post-poll alliance with the regional Janta Dal (Secular) (JDS) by declaring unconditional support to the latter in the formation of the government while the results were still tickling out from various assembly segments.
A high tension drama triggered following May 2018 Karnataka Assembly Elections with BJP falling short of the absolute majority finally unfolded on 21st May with Haradanahalli Devegowda Kumaraswamy of JDS taking oath as the chief minister and G Parmeshwara of Congress as his depity on the beautifully decorated lawns of the magnificent Bengaluru Vidhan Sabha complex. In the state assembly elections, the BJP, Congress and JDS bagged 104, 78 and 37 seats respectively. As against this, in the previous dissolved assembly, the Congress had 122, the BJP 40, JDS 40 and others 22 seats – the popular mandate clearly in favour of the BJP yet falling short of the majority.
The occasion was marked with the presence of a galaxy of opposition stars, to name a few, Sharad Pawar of NCP, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi of Congress, Mayawati of BSP, Mamta Banerjee of AITMC, Akhilesh Yadav of SP, Tejaswi Yadav of RJD, Chandra Babu Naidu of TDP, Sitaram Yechury of CPM and Arvind Kejriwal of AAP. Among many other leaders, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and DMK working president MK Stalin though visited Bengaluru on the occasion but stayed away from the ceremony on various pretexts. The most striking feature of the entire phalanx of the stars gathering is that they are so often pitted against each other with little in common and many of them are individually nurturing the ambition of becoming India’s next prime minister.
In fact, the only common trait among the star leaders is their opposition and ever escalating hate agenda against the Indian premier Narendra Modi and an intense desire to stop him at all cost from getting a second term in the next general elections due in 2019. Ironically, the leaders with own dubious past and misdeeds carry the enormous burden over their shoulders of nurturing the secularism and saving the democracy which according to them is at peril in the hands of Mr Modi and BJP. According to some analysts, this was supposedly the biggest anti-BJP gathering at a public platform ever since 1996 when everyone was seen grouping together to stop Atal Bihari Bajpai forming a stable government at the federal level at any cost.
Leaders were seen sharing rare bonhomie of sworn enemies of yester years shaking hands together, rivals raising hands in solidarity and unequals bumping foreheads in affectionado moments. From the gestures shown, the idea of a grand anti-BJP coalition emerging before the next year’s general election indeed appeared to be taking shape and getting on a firmer ground, though some leaders like Sitaram Yechury were seen expressing scepticism about the incongruous unity. In the following paragraphs, let’s have a few glimpses of the past events and paradoxes of relationships of these stalwarts which apart from revealing truth also explains true moral character of some.
From the Galaxy of Opposition Stars
Sharad Pawar: On the dais of the opposition unity, the 77 years old Maratha leader Sharad Pawar was perhaps the senior most active leader in the opposition camp. A hard core Congressman, he was expelled from the grand old party in May 1999 after he questioned the leadership of the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi. Considering his seniority and aura, he had his own aspirations after the vacuum caused by the death of Rajiv Gandhi and in the process he was against Sonia Gandhi leading the Congress Party. After his expulsion, he formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in May 1999 along with a few other dissidents Congress leaders like PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar.
Notwithstanding the fact that the very basis for the NCP formation was the opposition and non-acceptance of the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, he formed coalition with the Congress party to form a government on many occasions at the state (Maharashtra) and federal level. He is an iconic figure with the image of a soft-spoken and able administrator yet involved in numerous controversies. Like most of the other Indian politicians, he was never convicted but so often accused of multiple scandals like the wheat scam, land allotment scam, sugar and onion scams, stamp paper scam, Nira Radia’s allegations, Lavasa controversies, links with criminals besides protecting tainted Lalit Modi for financial irregularities and misconduct as the IPL chairman and commissioner. One would wonder if he has now reconciled and made peace with the past by accepting the might and leadership of the Gandhi family.
Chandra Babu Naidu: He is yet another star attraction among the opposition league, current chief minister and head of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. The party was founded by NT Rama Rao in March 1982 and has the distinction of being the main opposition party in the 8th Lok Sabha from 1984 to 1989. Impressed with the political skills of son-in-law, NT Ramarao had appointed Naidu as the General Secretary in the party in 1985. However, when Ramarao married Lakshmi Parvathi, Naidu successfully staged a coup of the TDP legislative party and became chief minister of the united Andhra Pradesh in 1995.
As the very basis for the rise of the TDP was its staunch opposition to the rule and policies of the Congress party governments, he allied with the NDA in the past, broke alliance, reunited with in 2014 and has again rocked it because the Modi government could not accede to his (inappropriate) demand of the special status for the Andhra Pradesh, which has not been accorded even to the more backward states like Bihar so far. Though the Centre agreed to provide special economic assistance to the state commensurate with the said status but Naidu was for more interested in political mileage. Now he seems to join hands with the congress and is a potential prime ministerial candidate in opposition camp. With his frequent flip-flop politics in selfish interest, one wonders if he could ever prove a dependable ally if the leader is someone else.
Mamata Banerjee: She is chief minister of Bengal and yet another strong critic and sworn adversary of Prime Minister Modi and the ruling BJP. She was earlier a member of the Congress party and served as the Minister of Railways (twice) and other ministries before forming her own party All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC or TMC) in 1997. She has the distinction of defeating the CPM in West Bengal in 2011 with 34 years of the communist rule but now she is known more for her controversies and anti-BJP crusade in the state and elsewhere. Though she is single and known for an austere lifestyle yet, ironically, one of her paintings was sold to one Sudipto Sen for Rs 18 million, who is a central figure in the much infamous Saradha scam in Bengal.
The Saradha Group financial scandal and the Rose Valley financial scandal were a dent on Mamta’s political image as some of her cabinet ministers were found personally involved in money laundering and were even imprisoned. She has been under criticism of not taking appropriate action against the accused ministers. Ever since 2013, there have been several communal outbreaks in Bengal and she has often been accused for the blatant minority appeasement and breakdown of the law and order during the riots and elections. In October 2016, her government stopped Durga Puja immersion because the date was coinciding with Muharram. Even in the recent local bodies’ elections, the TMC goons were seen hand-in-gloves with the local administration blatantly sabotaging the election process as widely reported by the national media. The most paradoxical was to see her sharing dais with the CPM leader Sitaram Yechury whose party is her arch rival in Bengal. Then her ostensible anti-BJP and anti-Congress stand makes her a doubtful partner in the opposition unity.
Sitaram Yechury: The General Secretary of CPM is yet another stalwart and a star contributor of the opposition unity. On sharing the stage with the leaders of the Congress and other parties at the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka chief minister Kumaraswamy, he suggested it was a kind of coalition that reflects a maturation of the Indian democracy. According to him in the new political order, all secular and democratic forces are uniting to take on the communal BJP. He was seen even shaking hands and exchanging words with the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee; the two are otherwise seen as sworn enemies in Bengal politics. Not long time back, Sitaram Yechury took a swipe at Mamta Banerjee for welcoming the democracy in Karnataka but "murdering democracy" in Bengal. Whatever they stand for but the fact is the communists have increasingly lost their force and relevance in the Indian politics.
In the name of social democracy, the communists are often found creating or promoting rift among the various sections of the society such as the upper castes versus dalits, rich versus poor, Hindus versus Muslims, Hindus versus Christians, and so on for their electoral gains and continued political relevance. The hate agenda and narratives of the leftist leaders and self-proclaimed leftist intellectuals is so intense and vigorous that many of them are at times found to lose every sense of social, moral, political and professional ethics and responsibility. It is the same CPM which had withdrawn support from the Congress (UPA) government in July 2008 at the federal level simply because they were against the nuclear deal signed with the United States besides being uneasy with the liberalisation and privatization. They are the ones who always put the ideology above the nation, and their leanings and support to the enemy countries like China even during the crisis time is a serious issue.
Mayawati: The story of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is for more complex and fascinating. During the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 1993, the coalition of BSP and Samajwadi Party (SP) won and formed the government and the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav became chief minister. Subsequently, due to inherent conflicts of the two parties on power sharing, the BSP decided to withdraw support from the government in 1995 leading to a crisis of existence of the SP government. Reportedly, Mayawati was staying in the state guesthouse along with BSP MLAs and workers. In a brewing tension between the leaders and workers of the two parties, the crowd of SP workers allegedly misbehaved with Mayawati’s supporters and detained them as hostages.
The violent SP workers started shouting and breaking the doors of the room which the BSP chief had locked from inside fearing harm to her modesty and life. Her life was reportedly saved due to timely intervention and rescue by a prominent BJP leader Lalji Tandon and his supporters; courage and valour of one BJP man Brahmdutt Dwivedi is often cited in this context. Ever since this unfortunate and ugly event, the two parties and their leadership have behaved like sworn enemies at the state and federal level. During the last stint of the SP government with Akhilesh Yadav as chief minister (2012-17), the parties have constantly criticised each other’s leader and policies. However, the turning point has been the state assembly elections in February – March 2017 wherein both the SP and BSP were routed by the BJP, the parties winning 47, 19 and 312 seats respectively. Because the leaders in both the UP based parties realise that they are not in a position to win a standalone fight with the BJP, hence the new found bonhomie between the two parties.
This bonhomie was visible in Bengaluru where the BSP chief Mayawati and SP president Akhilesh Yadav not only postured a symbolic togetherness by sitting next to each other on dais but also, reportedly, had a closed door meeting in a hotel before going to swearing-in ceremony. Her ambition to become the first dalit prime minister is not a secret but even the record of becoming UP chief minister for the fourth time still sounds good. Among many controversies, she was investigated by the CBI in Taj Corridor and Disproportionate Asset cases in the past but the cases were closed later in the absence of sufficient evidence. The fact is she will play second fiddle to none and any apparent compromise or accomodation, particularly in UP and federal level, would ultimately prove a delusion.
Akhilesh Yadav: The people often quote instances of hunger for power and position from the Mughal history while the great politicians of the modern age have already created new paradigms. A very handy case in point is the recent power struggle between the father and son duo of the Samajwadi Party, with other close relatives taking side as per convenience. This started couple of months before the UP state assembly elections in February 2017 wherein the party founder and president Mulayam Singh Yadav was constrained to expel own son and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav for six years when the latter with the support of another uncle and party general secretary put up candidates against the official nominees for the assembly elections and summoned a party meet to elect new party leaders. However, the defiant son and uncle duo successfully managed the coup and organised a party meet wherein Akhilesh Yadav was declared as the new national president of the Samajwadi Party declaring action earlier taken by the party supremo Mulayam Singh as unconstitutional and invalid.
Needless to mention, the dethroned and delusioned father and party supremo has made peace with the son and new party president in majority reconciling with the destiny. In the changed scenario, Akhilesh would be contented with a come-back in UP and if numbers dynamics workout well he would be happy his father to dominate the federal scene. Though known for sincerely trying to change the party’s image of protecting and promoting criminals and mafias during his father’s reign, he himself has often been accused of promoting people from the particular caste and religion especially in police and administration. A paradoxical fact is that both the SP and BSP can’t really see each other eye-to-eye in state politics but they find the BJP as the common enemy for coming together.
Going by the media reports, during his stint as chief minister almost sixty per cent police stations were headed by the officers of his own caste. The nexus and rot was so deep rooted that the aspirants of the state civil service were constrained to move Allahabad High Court in 2013 claiming out of 86 selected backward community candidates, 50 were Yadavs with many of them scoring low in written examination but scoring exceptionally high in interview. The BSP supremo Mayawati and other leaders too accused the government of patronising yadavs and acting against dalits. In October 2015, the Allahabad High Court passed verdict that the appointment of Anil Yadav as UP PSC chairman was illegal. This was followed by the appointment of yet another own caste incumbent Anirudh Yadav as chairman by the Akhilesh government. Nepotism, casteism and high political stakes in Uttar Pradesh being hallmark of the Yadav clan, it is doubtful they will allow others to grow or genuinely be keen to share power with any other political party or leader.
Tejaswi Yadav: As a successor and second eldest son of Laloo Yadav who is now in jail after a record of consecutive four convictions on corruption charges in treasury scam, 28 years old Tejaswi Yadav is already an ex-deputy chief minister and current opposition leader in the Bihar assembly. He is a school dropout having studied only until 9th class. He was elected to the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 2015 as a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD) formed by his father. A paradoxical fact is that the cases in the treasury scam in Bihar were registered against his father Laloo Yadav in 1980s during the Congress regime but on every conviction the political family accuses Mr Modi and the BJP conspiring against them by implicating in false cases.
The CBI is currently investigating a corruption case against Tejaswi Yadav, his father Laloo Prasad, his brother Tej Pratap Yadav, his mother Rabri Devi and other members of the family since July, 2017 for the alleged transfer of the maintenance of two hotels run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, in Ranchi and Puri to the private parties in return for a prime plot of three acres in Patna through a benami transaction. The Enforcement Directorate too is pursuing another criminal case against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. A self-proclaimed champion of democracy and secularism, he and of course the entire family treats Mr Modi and BJP as enemy number one responsible for all the corruption cases against them. Perhaps this is their USP too because all birds of the same feather prefer to flock together.
HD Kumaraswamy: As regional outfit, Kumaraswamy and his father HD Deve Gowda of JDS are well known for their flip-flops in Indian politics for long. HD Deve Gowda was unexpectedly chosen as the prime minister of India in 1996 in almost similar circumstances. The BJP had emerged as single largest party in 1996 general elections yet far from the majority as in 2018 Karnataka state assembly elections. Atal Bihari Bajpai was invited by the president to form the government but his government collapsed in 13 days as he was unable to muster requisite majority in the House. The United Front led by Deve Gowda with only 46 of his party MPs formed the government with the support of the Congress and the government lasted only for ten months when the Congress withdrew its support. In almost repeat of the history, Kamaraswamy has formed the government with 37 MLAs in Karnataka, the difference being that this time the Congress has agreed to share power with him as junior partner despite having more than double strength of MLAs.
Kumaraswamy married for the second time in 2006 despite his first wife being alive and continuing. Currently he along with first wife is facing charges in the Janthakal mining scam in pressuring a bureaucrat for renewal of the private company’s iron ore mining lease for 40 years in violation of rules and forged documents. A Special Investigating Team (SIT) is probing the scam under the direction of the Supreme Court of India. In another Vishwabharati case, he is accused of misusing the official position in allotment of 80 acres land to the private cooperative society in a quid pro quo site allotment to his first wife during his tenure as chief minister in 2006. The BJP is not an enemy but the greed and lust of power have launched the politician father-son duo in the opposite camp with anti-Modi agenda. The Congress had publicly accepted the role of junior partner unconditionally but after days of taking oath as Chief Minister, Kumaraswamy has admitted that there are issues in portfolio-sharing between the allies. One wonders if it is the ethics of the rivals coming together to stop common enemy or the politics is like that only.
Arvind Kejriwal: The head of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and chief minister of Delhi, he was also among the enthusiastic opposition stars gathered in the show of unity and strength. A product of 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare, his first tenure of 49 days as the chief minister of Delhi was full of dramatics, dharnas and protests against the Central Government in early 2014 and the second term from February 2015 0nwards too is not much different considering never dying controversies associated with him and AAP. His constant ugly war of words and power tussle on file with the Lieutenant Governor has been a never ending saga, particularly on the posting of senior officials in the Delhi government. Also he seems to under paranoia that Prime Minister Modi and the BJP are behind his every trouble.
Some other raging controversies are disputed TV ads glorifying his government’s achievements, ugly spat and removal of his own party associates and party co-founder members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, appointment of the wife of a close associate as the Chief of Delhi Commission of Women, constantly blaming of the constitutional institutions like courts and Election Commission for unfavourable verdicts, cases of corruption, fraud and misconduct of the ministers of Kejriwal cabinet, constant tussle with the Delhi police and hefty power bills and other facilities in his official residence and allied complexes. Above all, his foul mouth had led to numerous contempt petitions against him in various courts. Unable to substantiate charges levied against adversaries, recently he was on a spate of seeking written apologies in an endeavour to get rid of numerous defamation suits. He is highly unpredictable but has often posed as the main challenger to the prime minister Modi.
Congress, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi: It is no more a secret that under the dynastic tradition, the grand old party of India has increasingly created newer paradigms of unpopularity and disgrace. A party which was ruling the country virtually in its entire length and breadth has now shrunken to merely Punjab and minnows Mizorum and Puducherry, besides this strange partnership with the JDS in Karnataka. In an incredible gestures of bonhomie and friendship, Sonia Gandhi was seen bumping forehead with Mayawati and chatting by holding hands during the ceremony, with the Congress president Rahul Gandhi standing by on the side of his mother. While posing for the panoramic photo-session of the galaxy of the opposition leaders, Sonia Gandhi was also seen siding with Sharad Pawar who had once quit Congress over her leadership and foreign origin.
Among several scams where the Gandhi family members came under scanner but thankfully for them any direct link was not established in the past. Now in the National Herald scam, the trial court has held that a prima face case of the alleged criminal misappropriation is established against the duo mother and son along with other Congress leaders. It is an on-going case in a Delhi court filed by the Indian economist and politician Subramanian Swamy against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, their companies and associated persons. Considering the seriousness and magnitude of the on-going case, the mother and son duo had to seek bail in December 2015. He is the leader of Congress alright but is yet to prove his worth before the other opposition stalwarts. However, as the heir of the dynastic family and prime minister candidate of the grand old party, Rahul Gandhi has the task of challanging Mr Modi which he dutyfully does by delivering a plethora of allegations every off and on, the most favourite ones being Mr Modi works only for the benefit of a 'few industrialist friends' and carries the 'politics of anger'.
Seemingly the facts are to the contrary: In Indian politics, Modi appears to be among few leaders who have stayed away from the nepotism and amassing personal wealth through dubious means in their public life. He has been able to retain such attributes despite a long political career with three stints as Chief Minister and the currently as Prime Minister. While he is being indiscriminately abused and charged by the political adversaries almost on daily basis, he usually replies to these abuses and charges before the public duly equipped with the commensurate data and facts. It's not that he doesn't commit mistakes or is without any weakness but his intentions and priorities for the nation are clear. None of these worthy opposition stalwarts and critics stand anywhere near Modi in his individual probity and propitiousness as also the political foresight and acumen in India today.
Instances of Government Formation in 2017-18
Today, the Congress is crying foul at every development and raising fingers on democratic processes and constitutional institutions while the party itself has an ignominious past with numerous instances where the elected governments were sacked, appointee Governors acted in a despotic and undemocratic manner in the formation and dismissal of the state governments and the support unceremoniously withdrawn after extending it unconditionally to form the government at the Centre and in states. We shall, however, not dig the history by citing specific cases and, instead, keep the present discussion within the gamut of what transpired recently in the smaller states of Goa, Manipur and Maghalaya vis-à-vis the recent developments in Karnataka, after the recent assembly elections.
The Goa Assembly elections were held in February 2017 to elect 40 members of the Legislative Assembly. The Congress won 17 seats, the BJP 13 and remaining 10 seats were shared among the smaller regional parties viz. Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), 3; Goa Forward Party (GFP), 3; National Congress Party (NCP), 1; and Independents, 3. Though the BJP had polled 32.5 per cent of the popular votes compared to 28.4 per cent of the Congress party, the latter bagged more assembly seats. Ever since independence of Goa from the Portuguese in 1961, the MGP has been a prominent regional party largely represented by the Hindu economically deprived and socially oppressed sections. They had forged an alliance with BJP in 1994 and are still a part of NDA government though BJP and MGP had separately fought 2017 assembly elections. Thus they were a natural ally of the BJP despite their recent political differences.
It is widely believed that the Congress party had a tacit understanding with the GFP as instead of fielding own candidates, they supported the GFP candidates in two assembly seats that the said party won. However, a last minute decision of fielding of a Congress candidate against the GFP president Vijay Sardesai seems to have antagonised the party that cost the Congress dearly in the government formation despite emerging as the single largest party in the state assembly. It is also alleged that before taking a final call, Sardesai kept waiting for a proposal from the Congress but no one approached him. Also he wanted a meeting with the Congress leadership in Delhi but was kept waiting for the whole day and had to return to Goa without a meet. All these events antagonised Sardesai who finally decided to go along with the BJP. Apart from the GFP, the Congress reportedly also did not respond favourably to a pre-poll alliance offer from the NCP.
In the above circumstances, the BJP acted fast, met the demand of potential allies to bring back the Defence Minister Manohar Parricker to Goa to form the government and approached the state Governor with a list of 24 MLAs to claim government formation. The Congress failed to claim the government formation even on the plea of being single largest party in the state assembly. Goa Congress leaders later blamed the central observer and leadership for “handing over the government” to the BJP on a “platter” by delaying the naming of the legislature party leader. In the given circumstances, the Governor Mridula Sinha invited the BJP to form the government after the party secured the support of the MGP, GFP and independent MLAs to establish their majority.
The Legislative Assembly elections were held in Manipur in March 2017 to elect 60 members of the Assembly. The Congress won 28 seats as against 47 in the earlier Assembly, the BJP won 21 with ‘nil’ representation in the previous Assembly and the remaining 11 seats were shared by the regional parties and others: Naga People’s Front (NPF), 4; National People’s Party (NPP), 4; Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), 1; AITMC, 1; and Independents, 1. The vote percentage of the BJP was 36.3 against the Congress 35.1 per cent.
From the above, any analyst would derive that though it was a fractured mandate but clearly against the ruling Congress party. During the last couple of years, the BJP has quietly but decisively made inroads in the north-eastern states by forging alliances with the regional parties. Despite having only 21 MLAs, the BJP was prompt to successfully negotiate with the legislatures of the NPF (4) and NPP (4) and one legislature of LJP in the government formation. The Independent and lone legislature of AITMC too decided to favour BJP rather than going with the Congress.
Accordingly, the Governor Ms Nazma Heptulla decided to invite N. Biren Singh of BJP to form the government after satisfying self that the chief minister incumbent had the requisite strength to prove majority on the floor of the House. She publically stated that she was aware of the single largest party situation of the Congress but it was not “incumbent on a Governor” to essentially call the single largest party only. She added that it was the Governor’s responsibility to see who has got the majority and who will be able to work in the interest of the State by providing needful stability. The Congress though made allegation of bias against the Governor but did not explicitly stake their claim for the government formation in their capacity of being the single largest party.
The situation in Meghalaya was not very different. After election in 2018, the Congress had slipped from their earlier 29 MLAs to 21 and the government was formed by the National People’s Party (NPP) with 19 MLAs and the support of the other regional parties namely United Democratic Party (UDP) with 6 MLAs, People’s Democratic Front (PDF) 4 MLAs, Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) 2 MLAs, BJP 2 MLAs and an Independent. These regional parties are part of NDA and for them the Congress with a long stint of misrule in the state was an enemy number one.
How Karnataka is Different
The action of the Governor has been much debated because he opted to invite the single largest party at the first instance to form a government although the JDS and Congress had simultaneously staked claim of majority with a list of MLAs. The matter was challenged by the Congress in the Supreme Court through a writ petition requesting the apex court to direct the Governor to stop oath taking ceremony of the leader of the BJP legislative party in the state assembly. This action led to an unprecedented hearing by opening the court at the mid-night. After a prolonged hearing, the Supreme Court, however, neither passed an order on the role of Governor nor granted stay for the oath taking but curtailed the time of 15 days given to prove majority on the floor of the house to just one day.
The Sarkaria Commission recommendations as accepted by the Government had suggested an order of preference that the governor should follow in case no party had a majority. The order of preference in such case is: (1) An alliance of parties that was formed prior to the elections; (2) The single largest party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including independents; (3) A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government; and (4) A post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a government and the remaining parties, including independents, supporting the government from outside.
In the instance case, any alliance of parties was not formed before the election; hence the Governor acted on the second suggestion of inviting the single largest party staking the claim to form the government. On technical grounds, the Governor cannot be faulted as is also evident from the Supreme Court decision. However, he could have avoided giving 15 days to prove the majority in House. With more time available, in all probability the BJP would have attempted engineering defections and/or splitting of the JDS or Congress legislatures to muster requisite support but it would have been ethically dishonest and wrong. In the recent cases of smaller states like Goa and Manipur, the Governors had acted on the evidence of which party or parties have majority of legislatures.
Ironically, when it was known to the Congress party in these states that the Governor was contemplating to invite the BJP to form the government, they took exception by citing provisions of the same Sarkaria Commission to buttress the claim that only the leader of the single-largest party should be invited to form the government. Actually, in such situations the Constitution as also the Sarkaria Commission has suggested only broad guidelines leaving a lot of discretion with the Governor.
As the appointees of this constitutional post are mostly ex-politicians, the fairness and neutrality of their action is often found questionable. However, there is a major difference in the government formation in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya on one hand and Karnataka on the other. It is the party with the largest number of MLAs in these smaller states which has fielded chief minister and formed the government with the support of the smaller regional parties. In Karnataka, it is the regional party with the least number of MLAs which has bargained the chief minister’s post in the government formation while the national party with MLAs more than double in number has agreed to function as the junior partner in the governance.
The twist and uncertainty of the government in Karnataka has started unfolding from the day one with the public statement of the Congress Dy Chief Minister G Parawaramesh that their party has not taken decision yet to support HD Kumaraswamy as chief minister for full five year term and that their immediate aim was to keep the BJP out. Therefore, developments in only next few weeks will decide the stability or otherwise of the government.
The political environment in the country reminds me of an interesting folklore tale from the Indian classic Panchatantra ‘The Brahmin’s Gift’. As it goes, once a pious Brahmin was rewarded with a healthy goat by a wealthy man. On his way back home, three cheats (Thugs) saw the Brahmin and started conspiring to take away the goat for a delicious meal. So in the process to execute the plan, one of cheats came out of their hiding first and asked the Brahmin, “Sir, what are you doing? Why does a pious man like you need to carry a dog on his shoulders?" The Brahmin was surprised, angrily refuted his claim and continued his journey. He had barely walked a few yards, when the second one confronted him, “Sir, why do you carry a dead calf on your shoulders? The Brahmin almost shouted refuting his claim but his confidence was a bit shaken. He had barely gone a distance when the third cheat appeared and laughed at him, “Sir, why are you carrying a donkey on your shoulders that makes you a laughing stock?” Now the Brahmin was really worried and frightened that perhaps the reward he was carrying on his shoulder was indeed some sort of ghost that transforms into the dog, the dead calf and then donkey. So he hurled the goat on the roadside and ran away; needless to mention, the tricksters had merry time having feasted on the goat.
The Indian politics today looks like the same with the majority politicians flourishing on the corruption, crime, misuse of power and public money while the gullible janta (general public) is endorsing and reiterating their faith on them time and again. A few of them who are a different stuff and actually endeavouring hard to carry the nation forward on the path of progress and prosperity, the ones who are not involved in nepotism and loot of public money, the ones who have not amassed insurmountable wealth for the self and relatives in a short time through unfair means, are in fact being ridiculed, discredited and disgraced by the former category flocking together despite numerous inherent and inter-personal contradictions but for the common interests of sharing power and public attention.
Perhaps India is the only country where those who genuinely talk of the nationalism and patriotism, and oppose the policies of appeasement and division of society on the religion and cast, are branded as communal and threat to the democracy by the dominant pseudo-secular politicians, media and intellectuals. Here those who recite "Bande Matram" (I salute motherland), those who have genuine love for the National Anthem and those who feel proud of the cultural legacy of the land, are considered threat to the secularism and democracy by the very elements.
Photo source: Internet