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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 22 New Delhi May 19, 2018

Karnataka Exposes BJP’s Cynical Pursuit of Power

Sunday 20 May 2018

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

What was witnessed in Karnataka after the Assembly poll results were out, exposes the BJP’s cynical pursuit of power—absolute power. It also exposes the BJP’s cynical contempt for constitutional and legal propriety. If it emerges as the single largest party, it would insist that the Governor invite it because it is the single largest party. If it fails and knocks together a post-poll alliance which manages to get the numbers, it insists that the Governor allow it to form the government on that basis. Its stand changes each time, its argu-ments shift each time according to the exigencies of the situation. Only one thing remains constant—grabbing of power at any cost.

Indeed, the ‘cost’ does not deter the BJP. JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy has accused the BJP of trying to suborn the loyalty of some of his party legislators by offering each of them a bribe of Rs 100 crores. Some Congress legislators have also been reportedly contacted by the BJP emissaries. The situation became so fluid that both the Congress and JD(S) had to herd their legislators in two different places to prevent attempts at poaching by the BJP.

The extremely partisan role played by Governor Vajubhai Vala was only to be expected. An RSS man who entered politics in Gujarat as a BJP activist, it was he who had vacated his Assembly seat in 2001 to enable Narendra Modi to enter the Gujarat Assembly. He has now given Yeddyurappa a full fortnight’s time to prove his majority in the House so that the BJP gets long enough time to ‘win over’ another eight or ten legislators to give it the majority it now lacks.

It is noteworthy that though the Congress could win only 78 seats against the BJP’s 104, as far as poll percentage is concerned, the Congress polled 38 per cent and the JD(S) 17.4 per cent against the BJP’s 36.2 per cent. The mystery of why the Congress won far less number of seats in spite of polling a higher percentage of votes lies in the number of seats gained by the Congress and BJP in different regions of Karnataka.

Whoever eventually gives a stable government to Karnataka, the poll results have thrown up some disturbing trends. Vikas or development played no role in deciding the people’s choice. Nor governance. Nor performance. Nor (non)fulfilling of poll promises made by the BJP in 2014. Siddaramaiah’s Kannada asmita did not work. Nor a separate flag for Karnataka. Nor the religious minority status for the Lingayats. Not even the issue of corruption. Two of the iron ore-scam- tainted Bellary brothers, Kakrunakara Reddy and Someshekhar Reddy, won as BJP candidates. The third brother, Janardhana Reddy, who underwent a jail term in the iron-ore case, openly campaigned for the BJP. What carried the day for the BJP was its Hindutva agenda, propagated vigorously by its most eloquent exponent, Narendra Modi, along with his no-holds-barred and below-the-belt attacks on the ‘dynasty’ and the ‘family’ including Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of post-independent India.

The Congress could not sway the people by highlighting the failures of the NDA Government including the non-fulfilment of its promises like creation of 20 million jobs a year or bringing back black money stashed abroad. Even the hardship caused by demonetisation and the introduction of the GST failed to cut any ice with the Karnataka electorate. This is a significant fact that has to be taken note of by the Opposition parties. If the electorate of Karnataka is still with the BJP it may be safely assumed that the majority of voters in all the States think in the same way. The Opposition has to take this factor into consideration while drawing up the strategy for 2019. Playing a soft Hindutva card will be of no avail. The Congress will have to campaign aggressively for the basic values of secularism, democracy, the building of an egalitarian society, etc.

The Karnataka result has also made it plain that if the Opposition wants to defeat the BJP in 2019, it will have to put up a united fight. The egos and ambitions of the party leaders will have to be subordinated to attain the primary goal—defeating the communal-fascist forces. Many would agree with Mamata Banerjee’s observation that if the Congress and JD(S) had fought together and formed a pre-poll alliance, the BJP would have been decisively trounced. The Opposition will have to unite on the basis of a common minimum programme which will be implementable and credible to the electorate.

May 17 B.D.G.

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