Millennium Post

Political colours of Karnataka

Fighting adversaries becomes a mammoth task if they arise from within a faction and that is exactly what ailed the now-collapsed Congress-JD(S) government. The political turmoil erupted in Karnataka when several Congress-JD(S) MLAs decided to exit the HD Kumaraswamy-led government, creating a dissident faction which the dailies popularly put as rebel MLAs. Holed up in Mumbai for the entire period of political instability, these rebel MLAs tendered their resignation to Speaker of the Karnataka House Ramesh Kumar with a sight of a falling coalition government that shall make way for BJP to stake claim to the vacant seat. Well, what they foresaw in their rebel camp did come true but not exactly in the form they hoped. In a rushed press conference yesterday, Speaker Ramesh Kumar pronounced that he had disqualified 14 MLAs–following the three who were disqualified on July 25–bringing the strength of the House to 208. But the Speaker was not hesitant on admitting that he had taken this decision with utmost responsibility and that these disqualifications are naturally open to a judicial review for the higher courts to decide on the issue. Kumar simply did what he thought was appropriate in the situation. By powers vested under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, Kumar, in a way, crumbled the way back to the legislative assembly for all MLAs in the rebel camp. In a neat fashion, Kumar disqualified them and ended their hopes of even participating in by-polls to get re-elected to the state assembly. Kumar's decision bars them from being part of the current assembly while it also sets a precedent for MLAs to restrain from indulging in defections. Though the unintended consequence of Kumar's decision would be an easy win for BS Yediyurappa in today's floor test considering the fact that BJP has 105 on top of the support of an independent. This shall see BJP easily reach the 105-mark required to win the floor test. But at the particular crossroad where Ramesh Kumar found himself following the political crisis, this unintended consequence was least of his worries. With BJP assuming office and taking hold of the ruins of the coalition government, even Kumar may face uncertain tenure. But for now, he has exercised his authority in disqualifying the rebel MLAs under the anti-defection law. Inserted in the Constitution in 1985 under the Tenth Schedule, the anti-defection law sought to prevent such political defections which may be due to a reward of office or other similar considerations. Kumar's decision is supposed to demotivate legislators from taking this adverse step, however, considering that disqualifications will be subject to judicial review, the precedence that Kumar wants to set may not materialise. The future of the tenure of rebel MLAs now rests on the court even as the state Cabinet formations nears. Ideally, the rebel MLAs had sought distance from the House in order to facilitate the falling of the Congress-JD(S) government and then make it back in time for the formation of a new one. However, given the disqualification processed by the Speaker, their presence in the assembly is unlikely and hence, yields them nothing for their theatrics. Their best bet now would be the argument of their resignation against the disqualification processed by the Presiding Officer of the legislature in the court of law.

With clouds of uncertainty hovering over the rebel camp, Yediyurappa and BJP can cherish the last laugh of having finally kicked out the 14-month old tumultuous campaign of the coalition government. However, holding a precarious majority himself, Yediyurappa's chances at succeeding Kumaraswamy and completing the remaining 46 months of tenure remain ambiguous. In fact, Yediyurappa has never completed a tenure in office even once on three occasions that he was the chief minister. His last stint at the helm–which was his third–was for a mere six days as he had to resign over lack of a majority. But times have changed and the overwhelming majority at the Centre will be a guiding factor for BJP to keep hold of the government in Karnataka and ensure a successful tenure. The intense three-week political battle finally resolves with the formation of a new government but what ails the Karnataka politics is not out of bounds. Alleged horse-trading, corruption, defection, et al, constantly feature in the state politics which is the prime reason that the state had to endure a shaky coalition government whose razor-thin majority proved disastrous for the former incumbent and therefore, what are the chances that it would not be the same for the new incumbent? It should be kept in mind that repeated inconsistency in forming the government is not only a matter of turbulent state machinery but sheer wastage of resources too in conducting by-polls and a quick succession of dispensations. Shaky government arising from a troubled state-politics is a waste of resources besides utter disrespect for the public mandate.

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