The curtain is finally down on the nataka in Karanataka, with B.S. Yeddyurappa winning the trust vote. His victory was a forgone conclusion after the H.D. Kumaraswamy government fell on the floor of the House and it became doubly sure after Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar disqualified 17 rebel MLAs. However, the three-week-long crisis in the state may be remembered for an oculo-cephalic reflex, where the eyes remained fixated on the chief minister’s chair. The polity touched a new low and all the euphuisms about the role of the governor or that of the Supreme Court — whether any direction can be given to the Speaker — proved to be humbug as H.D. Kumaraswamy admitted after losing the confidence vote, “I am sorry if you (Speaker) are hurt by our action. It is true that I did try to postpone the trust vote. Even this afternoon, I tried to persuade rebels, but I failed as my friends ditched me.” The filibustering did not work, though it continued for six days. On July 11, the Supreme Court gave a direction to the Speaker to meet the 10 MLAs by 6 pm that day and take a decision on their resignations, “forthwith or in the course of the remaining part of the day” — but the next day it pressed the pause button, asking the Speaker to refrain from deciding on their resignations for the time being. Subsequently, the court refused to give any direction about holding the confidence vote within a timeframe, but crippled the Speaker by ruling that the rebel MLAs cannot be forced to attend the session. There was absolutely no reason for the Speaker to procrastinate on the resignations of the rebel MLAs after they met him personally. Such partisan behaviour on the part of Speakers invites judicial intervention, and then they cry hoarse over judicial overreach.
The governor issued directions twice to the Speaker to hold the floor test but the chief minister as well the Speaker conveniently ignored them. Mr Kumaraswamy’s admission makes it abundantly clear that the Speaker danced to his tune. Mr Kumaraswamy refused to read the writing on the wall and faced the ignominy of facing defeat on the floor of the House. However, Mr Ramesh Kumar has retrieved some respectability by disqualifying the rebel MLAs on the eve of the trust vote.
Actually, the JD(S)-Congress government was lame duck right from the beginning as the coalition was hitched in a jiffy by the Congress high command only to keep the BJP out. Support was extended to the JD(S), the smaller party, without soliciting the opinion of MLAs who had campaigned against the JD(S), besides the BJP. The Anti-Defection Act has made the party leaders dictators — as wholesale is allowed, but not retail. Thus, the leader can announce the party’s support for anyone without arriving at any agreement on policies and programmes, but MLAs have no such freedom. The law is unconstitutional in the sense that it completely stifles the freedom of expression of legislators. Many MLAs were not able to gulp this sudden volte-face by the Congress high command. They were tongue-tied but the discontent kept simmering. It appears that even Siddaramaiah, Congress leader and former chief minister, could not accept it in his heart — he has not vacated the chief minister’s bungalow till date.
It is surprising that the Supreme Court, which worked with exemplary speed to stop the alleged horse-trading by asking Mr Yeddyurappa, the chief minister, to prove his majority within one day, forcing him to resign, remained an onlooker on the unseemly drama which continued for 18 days. Since the governor’s credibility is at a premium, every decision of his/her is viewed with suspicion. So the governor allowing 15 days to Mr Yeddyurappa was seen as partisan, giving him enough time to cobble up a majority by engineering defections in other parties. The Supreme Court was feted for saving democracy by reducing the period to one day.
It needs to be understood that democracy can saved by the people alone, not by the judiciary. If MPs/MLAs sell themselves, people can take them to task in the next election. If the election throws up a hung Assembly or Parliament, there are only two options — go for another election, which cannot guarantee an absolute majority for any party or coalition, or form a coalition government. For forming a post-poll coalition, time is required as every party or its leader need to talk to other parties and legislators as to how the coalition can be formed and on which conditions they will extend support. They may have to formulate a common minimum programme. The Supreme Court did not restrain the governor from inviting anyone to form the government, but after Mr Yeddyurappa got the invitation and he formed the government, the court asked him to prove his majority in just one day. How is it possible? Since the Indian polity is touching the cesspool of degradation, talks or negotiations with other parties mean only one thing — buying legislators. However, if the leader of a particular party announces support to any leader or party, it is not considered immoral or undemocratic.
It may be pertinent to mention that leaders sold themselves out first, and MPs/MLAs followed suit. Jharkhand has become a corridor for reaching the Rajya Sabha for outsiders. Many moneybags have gone to the Upper House of Parliament from this state. Leaders from the state have sold even Lok Sabha tickets.
Becoming MPs/MLAs and grabbing power has become the be-all and end-all of politics. Democracy has come to mean nothing but elections. It is an irony that in the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, who shunned power for loftier ideals and fortifying people’s power, state power has come to signify the highest goal of democracy. Politics needs to be disabused of the insatiable lust for power. Democracy means the rule of the people, and elected representatives are accountable to them. But unfortunately, the people are divided on narrow considerations. The moral fibre of society has gone down, and that is the real worry.