Opinion Op Ed 01 Jun 2018 In Karnataka, consti ...
The writer is a senior TV journalist and author

In Karnataka, constitutional and political morality are at stake

Published Jun 1, 2018, 5:09 am IST
Updated Jun 1, 2018, 5:09 am IST
In mature democracies, coalition governments are never formed just for the sake of power.
Members of the ruling party in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly show the victory sign after succesfully winning the trust vote session for the newly-sworn in chief minister of the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in the Karnataka Assembly at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on May 25.  (Photo:AFP)
 Members of the ruling party in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly show the victory sign after succesfully winning the trust vote session for the newly-sworn in chief minister of the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in the Karnataka Assembly at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on May 25. (Photo:AFP)

In mature democracies, coalition governments are never formed just for the sake of power. In the UK, coalition governments have been formed mostly during periods of national crisis and were called national governments. It had the national government from 1931 to 1940 and multi-party coalitions during both world wars

In Karnataka, the JD(S)-Congress government sailed through the confidence vote smoothly, but the sailing is not smooth otherwise so far as governance is concerned. Chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy spoke the home truth when he said that he did not have the mandate of the whole state and was at the mercy of the Congress, and so, not obligated to the 6.5 crore people. It does not bode well for the state and raises apprehensions about the longevity of the government. However, it is not unexpected in a marriage of convenience.

 

Karnataka elections have thrown up many issues of constitutional and political morality. Constitutional morality is lacerated when political morality takes a nosedive which is not unusual these days. Despite a strong anti-defection act, political parties have to keep their legislators in confinement at unknown resorts for saving them from being poached. Grabbing power has become the only motto of political leaders and parties. Legislators also mulct other parties for extending support. India’s problem is the multiplicity of political parties falsifying Duverger’s law that the first-past-the-post (FPTP) election system invariably leads to a two-party system. All other countries having the FPTP system, like the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, etc, have vindicated Duverger. William H. Riker supported Maurice Duverger strongly, and so, it is also known as Duverger-Riker law. 

Countries having proportional representation have many parties, which get seats in Parliament on the basis of percentage of votes they get. It ensures that Parliament does not become authoritarian or tyrannical where it is supreme and sovereign. In FPTP system, one party may sweep the poll and another party getting even a higher percentage of votes may get less number of seats or may even be wiped out as its voters may not be concentrated in certain areas. India defies Duverger’s law because of its diversity as every group or community has its own party. It leads to fractured mandate, and consequently horse-trading.

Fractured mandate also leads to the most unholy alliances as Karnataka has evinced. The Congress has extended support to the JD(S), which Rahul Gandhi denounced as the B-team of the BJP, calling it Janata Dal Sangh during the election campaign. When no party gets the majority, coalition or minority governments are formed. For the first time it happened in 1954 in Travancore-Cochin when none of the major parties got the absolute majority. Thus, Praja Socialist Party, which won only 18 seats, formed the government headed by Pattom A. Thanu Pillai supported by the Congress with 45 seats. However, the Congress did not join the government and withdrew support after nine months as it was also being held responsible for the omissions and commissions of the state government. Today, it is nothing but power-sharing in the garb of non-BJPism. The alliance between the BJP and PDP in Jammu and Kashmir is equally unnatural and unholy.

It was the call for non-Congressism given by Ram Manohar Lohia that gave a fillip to defections in the garb of ideology. In 1967 Assembly elections, Chaudhary Charan Singh in Uttar Pradesh and Govind Narayan Singh in Madhya Pradesh were elected on Congress tickets, but they defected with their flocks and became chief ministers of their respective states. In Haryana, Rao Birender Singh defected from the Congress and formed Vishal Haryana Party and became the chief minister dislodging Bhagwat Dayal Sharma. In 1948, when the Congress Socialist Party separated from the Congress, all 13 MLAs of the CSP in UP and 3 in Bihar who had been elected on Congress tickets resigned form the Assembly. Acharya Narendra Dev was the leader of the party and also an MLA. Jawaharlal Nehru personally told him that there was no need to resign, but he did not relent. Ironically, the Acharya and all other MLAs who had resigned lost in byelections. However, they never regretted their decisions.

In mature democracies, coalition governments are never formed just for the sake of power. In the UK, coalition governments have been formed mostly during periods of national crisis and were called national governments. It had the national government from 1931 to 1940 and multi-party coalitions during both world wars. In Canada, minority governments have been formed with the outside support of other parties which were not in the government.

Another issue relates to the role of governor. This constitutional office is the one most mired in controversies. Governors are expected to live up to the dignity of the office. Many a time governors resign in order to contest elections as candidates of their previous parties. Governors must be non-partisan, and only people of eminence should hold the august office as recommended by the Sarkaria Commission as well as the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution (NCRWC). Indian Constitution is the first parliamentary federal Constitution in the northern hemisphere. Federalism is needed to keep a country together which is multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. Great Britain is a unitary country, which has only given some devolutionary power to its provinces, but it encouraged federalism in its colonies, be it Canada, Australia or India. Many scholars are of the view that Ireland would not have seceded from the UK had it followed true federal principle.

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in B.P. Singhal vs Union of India (2010) case held: “A governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union government has lost confidence in him. It follows therefore that the change in government at the Centre is not a ground for removal of governors holding office to make way for others favoured by the new government.” However, though the apex court has given protection to executive authorities like home secretary and director, the CBI, who now has fixed tenures, it has not given any such protection to governors.

One institution, which has gained credibility in the midst of a barrage of allegations, is the Supreme Court. It has been hailed for its impartiality by the Congress, which brought the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. This was the first impeachment motion on the ground of political bias that CJI Misra was compromising the independence of the judiciary by assigning sensitive cases to select benches. Thus, he was accused of judgment fixing in favour of the present government. Ironically, the three-judge bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri, which decided the Karnataka case, was constituted, as usual, by the CJI, the master of the roster, about whom questions were raised by four most senior judges. Leaders like Mayawati and others also applauded the apex court for its impartiality and boldness though only recently they had excoriated it as casteist for its judgment in the SC/ST Act case.If democracy in India is to flourish, political parties must be reformed and made democratic as recommended by the NCRWC which devoted one full chapter to it.

The writer is a senior TV journalist and author

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