The Karnataka government is now in freefall. With the resignation of Congress stalwart Roshan Baig on Tuesday, the number of legislators who have quit the Assembly has risen to 14. And with the BJP, despite protestations to the contrary, marking out another five who could cross over to their camp, the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) government knows that with their numbers dropping to below the halfway mark in the 224-member Assembly, it is living on borrowed time.
But, any government that is cobbled together with the help of self-serving defectors does not have a long shelf life, and will be marked for corruption and graft. This applies as much to the Congress which is pulling out all the stops to save its last government in the south, as much as to the BJP, which stands to benefit, if its numbers swell any further.
The Congress Legislature Party chief, Siddaramaiah, has naturally issued a grim warning, stating that legislators who jump ship could face the anti-defection law as well as disqualification leaving them ineligible to stand for elections for the next six years. This may or may not be tenable in a court of law. However, that threat, as much as the Congress bigwigs sending senior leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad and B.K. Hariprasad to trouble-shoot, may manage to stem the flood.
But for how long, and to what purpose, is the question.
As Speaker Ramesh Kumar examines the veracity of the resignations and has ruled that only five pass muster, and that the other legislators who have resigned must meet him personally with resignations in the required format, this is an exercise that only puts off the inevitable.
The House, however truncated, must meet to pass the budget on account. But that is the extent of this dispensation’s commitment to running the state. This has been a government in nothing but name. And while it is all too easy to blame the BJP for its repeated attempts to bring down the Kumaraswamy government, the fact remains that this government’s 13-month history has been marked by an absence of governance as well as deep mistrust between the coalition partners. Mr Kumaraswamy believes that Mr Siddaramaiah, uncomfortable with the arrangement arrived at in Delhi by the Congress bigwigs that ceded power to his smaller JD(S), did nothing to help the coalition’s cause.
In retrospect, Mr Siddaramaiah's angst at not being able to run the state as he did when he was chief minister and instituted social welfare schemes that bolstered education for girls, addressed farmers' distress and attempted to tackle hunger among the urban poor may not be misplaced.
The fractured 2018 verdict, in fact, robbed the BJP as much as the Congress of a clearcut mandate to rule. Perhaps instead of a band-aid that puts another artificial arrangement in place that is once again a travesty, it may be time for the chief minister to dissolve the house, call for fresh polls, and allow Karnataka to speak out....