SEEMA MUSTAFA | 17 MAY, 2018
Pressure on the SC
NEW DELHI: As the BJP exposes itself, the Opposition has come into its own in Karnataka. And regardless of what the Governor has done and the Supreme Court might do, the fight back by the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) in Karnataka will have a major impact on the 2019 elections. The BJP is aware of this but given its determination to collect scalps (read state governments) it is following a push and shove policy that is not going to pay dividends in the longer run.
In the midst of television news disinformation there are two inalienable facts:
1. The BJP, despite the use of big money, a ruthless and often communal campaign, and 21 public rallies by the Prime Minister remains well short of the halfway mark with just 104 seats instead of the required 113.
2. The Congress and the Janata Dal (S) together secured 117 seats and a sizeable chunk of the vote percentage --over 56 per cent. The BJP vote share slumped from a high of 43.4% to 36.2% securing about two per cent less than the Congress vote share of 38%. Calculations are that if the Congress and the JD-S had fought the elections together they would have secured over 150 seats. And the projection reduces BJP Lok Sabha seats as of 2019 now to six.
The BJP has been essentially given time to horse trade by the Governor by asking Yeddyurappa to form the government and allowing him 15 full days to prove his majority. The fact that the rest of the legislators are divided between the Congress and the Janata Dal-S with just two independents clearly indicates the Governor’s green signal to horsetrading. When there are no smaller parties or surplus Independent MLA’s how will the BJP make up the shortfall of 9 legislators and form the government? Surely this was the question the Governor could have been expected to pose to the BJP delegation that met him but then he himself was a loyal member of the same party and showed no inclination to seek answers that could only be troublesome for those seeking to rule, by hook or by crook.
This perhaps was predictable. But what has come as a surprise is the fight back from the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) reminiscent of another era. The alacrity and the soundness with which both the parties have risen to the challenge has raised hope for 2019, regardless of the decision taken by the Governor now. The midnight knock on the Supreme Court door by the Congress opened these and although---perhaps again predictably---the Judges did not stop Yeddyurappa from taking the oath they have asked for letters and proof that the BJP can muster the legislators necessary to form the government.
The Congress-JD(S) attack has been multi-pronged in what constitutes classical Indian politics. Seen more often than not during the 1980’s.
First, as soon as it was known that the BJP was in the lead the Congress reached out to the JD-S, cemented relations, doused animosity with conciliation and ended the day with both agreeing to stake claim to the government with HD Kuruswamy as the projected Chief Minister;
Two, both parties went almost immediately to the Governor to stake claim to form the government;
Three, the media space was taken up as well with a series of crafted press conferences addressed separately and together by former CM Siddaramaiah and to be CM Kumaraswamy, bolstered by a slew of tweets, posts, media bytes and interactions by senior Congress leaders;
Four, the fact that the BJP was trying to ‘poach’ on the legislators was made known in some detail with the senior leaders of both parties attacking it for the murder of democracy, of opening ED files, of offering ‘Rs 100 crores” per candidate. In short, for once the Congress and JD-S were able to occupy the propaganda space with the attack on the BJP sharp and well formulated;
Five was the move to shift all MLAs to a resort to prevent the BJP from horsetrading. Again a move with media impact;
Six, was the midnight knock at the Supreme Court door. With a sound legal argument that kept the court engaged for three hours. The result was that the apex court could not shrug off the argument, has asked for the letter and relevant proof, and is expected to take a decision Friday. The credibility of the judges and the judiciary is now on test.
Till then of course the drama continues. The Congress-JD(S) legislators protested outside the Karnataka Assembly even as Yeddyurappa was taking the oath inside. “The RSS is killing all institutions” the Congress said with party president Rahul Gandhi tweeting against the attempt by the BJP to finish democracy. Former BJP Minister Yashwant Sinha tweeted warning of similar attempt to block democracy in 2019. All in all a valiant fight back with the JD-S and Congress finding bonhomie in their joint opposition to the BJP.
And this does not portend well for the ruling party at the centre as its tactics in Karnataka are further unnerving existing and would be allies. The regional parties are swirling around talking to each other in a bid to come together in an united front and Karnataka has actually made the Congress party kosher. Its support for the JD-S and its ability to fight back has presented it a new light to the regional satraps, including to the JD-S that seems to have run out of scepticism.
This changing perception will be an important ingredient in determining the course of events and alignments between now and the 2019 polls. The pressure exerted by the two parties in Karnataka is being felt by the Supreme Court that might or might not have wanted to become part of this controversy but has been left with little option. To a point where it cannot easily now allow a minority government to continue in office, and at the same time allow a situation where horsetrading is legitimised.
Perhaps this is the reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah were not present at Yeddyurappa’s swearing in ceremony that should have been an occasion of great celebration for the BJP that has subverted the rules to get into power. The need to keep a certain distance lest the CM be asked to step down by the court in 24 hours?