Vol. XLIII No. 28 July 14, 2019

Karnataka: BJP’s Subversion of Democracy

THE sordid happenings in Karnataka have reached a climax with the resignations of 14 MLAs belonging to the Congress and the JD(S) and two independents who were supporting the coalition. This development has come after a series of attempts by the BJP in the past one year to topple the Kumaraswamy government. The BJP was not reconciled to the fact that it could not run a government with majority support after the 2018 assembly elections, even though it had emerged as the single largest party.

The BJP has brazenly gone about luring and bribing legislators belonging to the ruling coalition. In this, it has put into operation what it had perfected years ago in the name of ‘Operation Lotus’. Luring elected representatives with bribes and promises of positions and deploying vast resources for undermining the elected government has become the hallmark of the BJP. It had earlier engineered defections in Arunachal Pradesh and Goa to form governments.

The Modi-Shah duo are directly responsible for polluting the democratic system with such low-level mercenary tactics. The BJP has been successful in organising such defections given the ramshackle coalition government set up by the Congress and the JD(S) which has shown no coherence or direction since its formation. The Congress, on its part, has contributed to the present state of affairs with the bickering amongst its leaders and the machinations of some of its power hungry MLAs.

The degeneration in Karnataka’s politics is symptomatic of a deeper malaise which has affected India’s political system. The invasion of big money and neoliberal capitalism has corroded the very essence of democracy and the party system. More and more legislators elected are those who have business interests – real estate, liquor trade, contractors and the upper strata of the rural rich. These are the elements who get tickets from the bourgeois parties and they have no fealty to any ideology or principles.

Just as the horse-trading in MLAs took place in Karnataka, so also we saw Telugu Desam MPs and MLAs of Andhra Pradesh cross over to the BJP. Significantly, all the four Rajya Sabha MPs of the TDP who defected are businessmen.

The BJP represents the zenith of this phenomenon of combining politics with business. It has become the main beneficiary of the corporates and uses these funds for its political maneuvers. It is not surprising that the defecting MLAs were spirited away to a five star hotel in Mumbai in a private jet owned by a businessman cum BJP leader who is a member of the Rajya Sabha.

The BJP’s subversion of democratic norms in Karnataka is part of the wider assault on democracy witnessed under the Modi government.

Defence of democracy and democratic institutions, electoral reforms and penalising defections and corrupt legislators must be a priority in the agenda of the democratic forces in the coming days.

(July 10, 2019)