Vol. XLII No. 20 May 20, 2018

Karnataka Outcome

THE Karnataka election has resulted in a hung Assembly.  The BJP has emerged as the single largest party winning 104 seats but falling short of a majority by eight;   the Congress was defeated getting only 78 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) got 37 seats and its ally BSP won 1.

The Congress decided to support the JD(S) leader, H D Kumaraswamy, to form the government and together they have a majority of 116 MLAs. Leaders of both parties have met the governor, Vajubhai Vala, to stake claim to form the government.  The BJP leader, Yeddyurappa, has also told the governor that he is staking claim to form a government.

The governor has to decide which leader can form  a stable government based on the number of MLAs he can muster in support. In this specific instance, when the BJP as the single largest party is unable to get the support of other parties and MLAs, the governor has to consider the claim of the post-election JD(S)-Congress alliance.  This was what was done by the governors of Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya in the recent period.  A Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had also ruled in 2006 in the Rameshwar Prasad case that the governor can call the leader of a post-poll alliance to form the government if he is convinced that they have the majority of legislators supporting them.

Any other course of action by the governor would open the doors for sordid deals and bribery to buy up legislators – something which the BJP excels in, as was shown in “Operation Lotus” in 2008.  At that time, the BJP with the help of the Bellary mining mafia had bought up nearly a dozen MLAs from various parties. 

However, Governor Vala has decided to swear-in Yeddyurappa as the chief minister without ascertaining whether he commands a majority in the House. Moreover, he has given him fifteen days to prove his majority on the floor of the House.  This partisan act is in keeping with his life-long affiliation to the RSS and only underscores the fact that governors in India act as per the ruling party dictates and not by constitutional norms.

As for the Karnataka Assembly election results, while a detailed analysis will have to be made, there are some sobering lessons for those who wish to fight the authoritarian-communal forces.  The BJP was able to make electoral gains by using its tried and tested formula of stoking communal polarisation; configuring caste alignments for maximum electoral benefits; putting in place an effective election machinery utilising RSS cadres; and massive use of money power.  The sweep of the coastal districts by the BJP, winning 16 out of the 19 seats, is an illustration of the toxic effects of the communal campaign and the divisions thus created. 

The campaign led by Prime Minister Modi touched new heights of calumny and lies.  He even brought the Army into the electoral fray by making false claims of how the Nehru government had treated Generals like Cariappa and Thimayya who hailed from Karnataka. 

For the Congress, the defeat in Karnataka is a big blow.  Karnataka was the only state with a Congress government in the South (if union territory Puducherry is discounted).  This election reverse underlines the continuing inability of the Congress to counter the BJP-RSS forces politically, ideologically and organisationally.  The visits of Rahul Gandhi to temples and mutts have proved to be a flawed and compromising approach to counter the Hindutva forces. Nor was the Congress able to convince people  that it had anything better  to offer in terms of economic betterment and their livelihood issues, given the fact that the Modi government is aggressively  pursuing the very neo-liberal policies which the Congress stands for.  The only positive outcome of the election is the quick support offered by the Congress to the JD(S) to form the government. 

The Left and democratic forces must draw the correct conclusions from this election. It is only through relentless struggles against the policies of the Modi government that unity of the people can be forged against the BJP.  There has to be an uncompromising struggle against the communal forces and their depredations by drawing in all the secular and democratic forces. It is when such movements and struggles develop around an alternative programme that a credible alternative will emerge.

(May 16, 2018)