What do you call an election result that brings no joy to anyone? The vainglorious leader of the BJP, the party with the largest mandate but without a majority, yet gets invited to ascend the throne without having won the battle decisively and meets an inglorious end. He is thwarted at the last minute by two warring groups that band together. It is another matter they are not deserving themselves.
The larger of the two disparate groups, the Congress, though a distant second, swallows its ego and subsumes its hatred for the other, the JD-S, and forms an alliance, desperate to keep the BJP away from power.
JD-S, which bagged a measly 37 seats against the required 112 to form the government, is in power thanks to the support of the Congress with 78 seats.
The result is a fractious coalition that will difficult to manage. It is also a case of history repeating itself.
History Repeats Itself
A circumstance reminiscent of today, happened in 1997, when HD Deve Gowda, with the backing of just 16 MPs of his own Janata party, became the prime minister, propped up by a hotchpotch of 267 members of parliament from a scrum of dissimilar parties. The Congress played a vital role then too with 168 MPs.
The BJP’s LK Advani called the arrangement “a tail wagging the dog”. HD Kumaraswamy, the son of Deve Gowda, who took charge as chief minister on Wednesday, (his party is often accused of being a family firm) is twice lucky. But he is again in an unenviable position because the chief minister’s chair appears very shaky.
The threat to his office is as much from outside as is from within. History again doesn’t provide comfort. The late Sitaram Kesari, the then Congress president, toppled Deve Gowda by withdrawing support around 160 days after he became prime minister.
The governor of Karnataka, a BJP appointee, did not cover himself with glory either. He was at the receiving end often in his long political career in Gujarat when the Congress ruled the centre and dismissed governors who did not toe the line.
He has now taken part in this tragic farce as most of his predecessors and counterparts over the decades have done, displaying crass and servile loyalty to the masters, which explains why no one was surprised by his hasty decision to invite BS Yeddyurappa to form the government.
Sanctimonious Congress leaders are now shouting from rooftops that the governor acted like a vassal of the ruling party. They have been writing erudite op-eds that the Constitution was being trampled brazenly by prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP boss Amit Shah.
This is a glaring example of selective amnesia by the Congress. Immediately after Yediyurappa resigned before facing the trust vote on the floor of the Assembly anticipating defeat, Rahul Gandhi mockingly and triumphantly said, "Hope the BJP has learnt a good lesson from this.”
How can one overlook that neither the Congress nor BJP has learnt any lessons from the past.
Whether it is the office of the governor or the CBI or the other offices like the Solicitor General or Attorney General, they have always been used and abused by the ruling parties in power to serve their ends.
While it is true that Attorney Generals for example are bound to represent the interests of the government, they are known to confuse the interests of the ruling party with that of the interests of the government.
They often gladly dance to the tune of the ruling parties and at their behest target vindictively political opponents or critics of the party in power instead of protecting the government and the constitution keeping in mind the common weal of the nation.
Using the instruments of the state, including the office of the governor, against satraps of regional parties has not been uncommon.
Remember that these pernicious practices began after the Nehruvian era with Indira Gandhi. And all ruling parties after that have not hesitated to unleash the terror of the state against dissidents.
Every party when it comes to power, intoxicated and blinded presumes it will rule forever forgetting that in politics as in life, power and wealth are evanescent and that soon the boot will be on the other foot.
Congress has been in the opposition many times after Indira Gandhi lost power in the aftermath of the Emergency and has been at the receiving end of various ruling party coalitions, which also dismissed governors who displayed the slightest streak of independence, without any scruples, paying the Congress back in the same coin.
When it regained power it could have brought about structural changes and all the major institutions could have been made robust and autonomous. But it was not to be.
Similarly when Modi ruled Gujarat, it was common knowledge that with his soaring popularity the Congress then in power at the centre went after him directing various prosecuting agencies to serve its agenda until the Supreme Court took over the monitoring of the agencies directly. The court then famously called the CBI a caged parrot and the agency admitted as much.
Same Pattern All Over Again
Modi and the BJP cried hoarse that the Centre was misusing the prosecuting and investigating agencies as its personal outfit. But when they rode to power both during the tenure of Vajpayee or now under Modi, there's not even a feeble attempt to make these institutions independent.
A new government normally brings cheer all around as there is change in the air to ‘ring out the old and ring in the new!' Sure, the vanquished are disappointed but it's all in the game of democracy and everyone looks forward to the future when a new government is sworn in.
Alas! You don't see widespread joy and celebrations in Karnataka. The BJP feels cheated and is said to be already planning and plotting to overthrow the government. Those who voted for JD-S and Congress are apprehensive if this ‘live-in arrangement’ will last.
Sooner or later, the wheels turn and power changes hands. That's the reality that one learns from history.
The Karnataka elections will bring cheer and glory if politicians realise this glaring truth and reach a consensus to make the appointment, functioning and removal of the governor independent of the ruling party. Then they will not complain because the ruling party at the Centre cannot trample them under their boot when they are in the Opposition.
GR Gopinath is the founder of Air Deccan.