SEEMA MUSTAFA | 19 MAY, 2018

The Court and the Constitution: A Fight Well Fought With a Direct Impact on 2019

Janata Dal(Secular) and Congress to form the government in Karnataka


NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: The election drama ended in Karnataka with Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa conceding defeat, and resigning on the floor of the Assembly even before the floor test. It was clear as soon as he went into his emotionally charged address that the BJP had lost the numbers game, as he spoke of the affection that the people had shown him and how he would continue to work for them. He then said he did not have the numbers and was going straight to the Governor to submit his resignation.

The way now is clear for Janata Dal-S HD Kumaraswamy to take the oath and lead the new Congress-JD(S) government into power. Media speculation of drama on the floor of the House came to nought, with BJP President Amit Shah’s skills falling short of skulduggery today. More so as the floor test had been ordered by the Supreme Court and was being televised to the nation.

The Citizen had reported that the drama or otherwise on the floor of the House would depend directly on the BJP’s success in splitting the other two parties, and there was no indication that this had happened till just before the Assembly met for the floor test. Both the Congress and the JD-S had been able to hold on to their legislators, rushing them from a Bengaluru resort to a Kerala resort. But the hard work paid off, and the Supreme Court intervention cutting short the 15 days given by the Governor to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority came as a major boon.

The new government will be in power soon and will have a direct impact on the Opposition fortunes in 2019. Karnataka was an important state for the BJP as victory here would have cast a shadow on the Congress in particular in the run up to the general elections, bringing it very close to its pledge of a Congress-mult bharat. It would also give the RSS and the BJP comfort in the south, where it has been having difficult in expanding its hold in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Andhra Pradesh, the Telugu Desam has ditched the BJP as well while in Maharashtra the Shive Sena is in full attack mode insofar as its ally in government is concerned.

It was as imperative for the Congress party to retain Karnataka, and after the debacle in Goa and the North East where the BJP crawled up from behind to form the government with the regional parties, the party was determined to give a fight. The campaign was intense, with tweet for tweet, and barb for barb followed by days of drama where the Congress almost went back to the old mode to launch an aggressive fight back as soon as it was clear that the BJP tally was short of the majority mark.

The Congress party will now have to ensure that the coalition with the JD-S is exemplary, so that it can generate trust and confidence in the regional parties across the country for pre- and not post- poll alliances across the country for 2019. Inability to keep this alliance---and here the BJP can be expected to bring sufficient pressure in a bag of tricks---could move the Congress party out of the central space insofar as the 2019 elections are concerned.

The Congress has to realise that its machinery is not fighting fit any longer, and that to win an election it has to have the penetrative ability within the states of the kind that the regional parties and the RSS/BJP have acquired. Alliances thus are a way out for the party for now to stem the BJP march, and thereby give itself post-2019 space to revive.

The BJP tried every trick in the book but this time was beaten by the Congress and the JD-S who used the Constitution and the law to bring themselves back into power in Karnataka. This alone is a lesson that the battle can be won through the institutions of democracy, and a resolute struggle therein.

1. The BJP appointed Governor Vajubhai Vala did not even think before inviting Yeddyurappa as the CM candidate of the single largest party to form the government in Karnataka. He ignored the affidavits and letters of support confirming the majority claimed by the JD-S and the Congress. And gave the BJP 15 days to prove its majority, thereby giving a fillip to horsetrading as the shortfall could be made up only from the other two parties.

The Congress responded not by going to the streets but the Supreme Court with a midnight knock and a hearing that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The court could not act against established law and its own judgements in the past and cut short the time for the floor test to just one day.

2. Yeddyurappa announced loan waivers for the farmers as soon as he stepped into office. The administrative service cautioned him saying that the step was populist and needed to be backed with figures and finances. And the Supreme Court stepped in directing the new CM from taking any executive decisions until the floor test.

3. A visibly angry BJP could not attack the apex court, so hit out at the Congress and JD-S accusing them of subverting the law. The Congress and JD-S used yet another pillar of democracy, the social media to publicise the pressure being brought on their legislators insisting that their families were being approached and threatened.

And the BJP then tried to bring in one of its own as the pro-tem Speaker for the floor test, generating fears that he might try and use some excuse to disqualify the legislators. Fears and speculation ran high and the Congress and JD-S again approached the Supreme Court.

The apex court did not intervene in the choice of the pro tem Speaker but made it clear that the entire proceedings should be televised for all to see. In other words let the people be the judge in a democracy that is meant to be for and by the people.

4. It was after this that the BJP finally gave up, more so as the legislators stood by the political parties they belonged to. Despite the money and the threats no one budged, with even the two Congress MLAs who had disappeared for a while returning to the fold as it were.

In short, the people won as did the Constitution and the law. Attempts to subvert the Constitution came a cropper along with the BJP’s chief strategist who was unable to wave the black magic wand convincingly in the face of democratic resistance.

Now for the run up to the 2019 general elections, new alignments, and new alliances.
 

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