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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 23 New Delhi May 26, 2018

Victory of Post-Poll Alliance in Karnataka: Victory for the Constitutional Method to Checkmate Communal and Fascist Forces

Saturday 26 May 2018

by S.N. Sahu

Long years back, while replying to a debate in the Constituent Assembly, Dr B.R. Ambedkar had very thoughtfully said that Indian democracy would produce many impossibles. What happened in Karanataka, in terms of the Governor inviting the leader of the single largest party—BJP—to take oath as the Chief Minister even as the Congress-JD(S) combine staked claim on the basis of the majority of MLAs on their side gave the impression that the BJP would be able to manage the majority and it would be impossible for the post-poll Congress and JD(S) alliance to form the government. There seemed to be everything going against the post-poll alliance as the Governor extended the invitation to Yeddyurappa to take oath as the Chief Minister and gave him fifteen days to prove his majority even though, as per media reports, Yeddyurappa wanted only seven days to do so. The manner in which the invitation was extended by the Governor at 9 pm and Yeddyurappa was asked to take oath as the Chief Minister at 9.30 am next day left hardly any scope for the Congress-JD(S) combine to move the Supreme Court in the middle of the night to challenge the decision of the Governor to invite Yeddyurappa to form the government.

Questionable Role Played by the Karnataka Governor

The role played by the Governor raised many questions and the legal and moral basis of his actions were found to be weak. In the process the institution of the Governor was considerably weakened and diminished by the actions of the Governor who unmistakably appeared to be motivated by partisan considerations. It was inconsistent with the vision of the framers of the Constituent Assembly who envisioned the Governor to be impartial, neutral and independent constitutional post taking oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. It was also incompatible with Mahatma Gandhi’s utterances of December 12, 1947 that “theirs (Governors) must be an all pervasive moral influence in their provinces”. The fact that in the past many Governors had not lived by the high values and vision associated with the office of the Governor is no excuse to justify the infractions committed by the present Governor of Karnataka. The widespread questioning of the decision of the Governor including in the apex court speaks of his doubtful credibility to live by the oath he has taken to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

Fear of Poaching of Congress and JD(S) MLAs

Apprehensions were expressed in many quarters that elected MLAs of the Congress and JD(S) would be influenced by the BJP to come to its side and support the government headed by Yeddyurappa even at the risk of violating the provisions of the Anti-Defection Law and getting disqualified in lieu of pecuniary considerations. Some audio tapes played in some TV channels clearly prove the point that the MLAs of the post-poll alliance were lured to break away from their original parties and support the BJP for getting many favours including some ministerial berths. Shri Ram Madhav, while participating in a discussion in a TV channel on the possibility of the BJP forming the government in Karnataka in spite of inadequate MLAs in its fold, famously replied that the BJP has Shri Amit Shah to take care.

Alertness and Reflexive Action on the part of Congress at the Political Level

In such a situation what turned the table against the BJP was sheer alertness and sharp reflexive action on the part of the Congress leadership led by Ghulam Nabi Azad to unconditionally extend support to the JD(S) to form the government before the Election Commission formally announced and notified the election results and stake claim before the Governor of Karnataka that they had majority support to form a stable government. Such sharp and reflexive action on the part of the Congress leaders stood in contrast to what it did in Goa where it did not stake claim to form the government even as it emerged as the single largest party after the election results were announced in that State. In fact when the BJP Government was formed in Goa based on the post-poll alliance it forged and acquired majority, the Congress party moved the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the Governor and arguing the point that as the single largest party it should have been invited to form the government. When the Supreme Court observed that the Congress party did not even stake claim to form the government, the latter had no explanation to offer.

Eventually it moved a substantive motion in the Rajya Sabha under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business to discuss the conduct of the Goa Governor in not asking the single largest party to form the government. The then Chairman, Rajya Sabha, M. Hamid Ansari, admitted the motion but could not give time to discuss it in the House as the Rules required that the Chairman may discuss with the Leader of the House and allot time but for some inexplicable reason the Leader of the House, Arun Jaitley, did not indicate the time in spite of several reminders by the Congress leaders to do so. As a result the substantive motion to discuss the conduct of the Goa Governor could not be taken up. All those developments heavily weighed in the minds of the Congress leaders and they wasted no time in forging a post-poll alliance with the JD(S) and staking claim with the Governor to form the government.

Sharp and Reflexive Action to move the judiciary 

The sharp reflex action and alertness on the part of the Congress leaders was evident at the political level and it was blended nicely and strategically with their quick and brilliant initiatives to move the Supreme Court in the middle of the night to challenge the Governor’s decision to invite Yeddyurappa to take oath as the Chief Minister. It was a master-stroke and one must acknowledge that the Supreme Court responded with adequate judicial sensitivity by constituting a Bench and hearing the parties concerned till morning and giving an order that a pro tem Speaker be appointed to conduct the floor test, that the 15 days time given by the Governor to Yeddyurappa to prove majority be reduced to a mere two days and asking the Chief Minister not to nominate five Anglo-Indian members to the Karnataka State Assembly.

The alertness and vigilance maintained on the part of the Congress and JD(S) to keep their elected MLAs together and make them immune to poaching by the BJP to ensure the necessary strength to prove majority on the floor of the House also contributed to fortify their resolve to unitedly sustain their post-poll alliance.

Yeddyurappa’s Resignation proved his Claim of Majority Support Hollow

The resignation of Shri Yeddyurappa after delivering an emotional speech in the Karnataka Assembly and without facing the floor test proved beyond reasonable that his claim of majority support for his party was a hoax and constituted a hollow claim and Governor’s assessment to the effect that he extended invitation to the BJP leader after satisfying that prima facie he would form a stable Government was hopelessly erroneous and contrary to the law and convention established in this regard.

Constitutional Methods Ensured Victory for post-poll Alliance in Karnataka and can Counter Communal and Fascist Forces

The victory of Congress and JD(S) alliance in Karnataka indicates that the fascist and communal forces can be checkmated by sheer alertness and vigilance in taking prompt action in combination with secular forces and formations and strategic use of institutions enshrined in the Constitution. All such methods, which enabled the post-poll alliance to register triumph in Karnataka and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, proves right the prediction of Dr Ambedkar that Indian democracy would produce many impossibles. The victory achieved in Karnataka by the post-poll alliance was based on employment of the constitutional method in contrast to the uncons-titutional method adopted by the authorities to invite Yeddyurappa who had not got the support of the majority of members.

Dr Ambedkar his last speech in the Constituent Assembly stressed on adoption of the constitutional method and urged the nation to remain wedded to it to achieve the objectives of the Constitution and cautioned that any other method contrary to the constitutional method would result in the grammar of anarchy. In fact the grammar of anarchy wrought by the communal and fascist forces in twentyfirst century India has to be countered by widespread adoption of the constitutional method which, as Professor Amartya Sen and Jean Drez in their book An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions said, deepens public reasoning and helps to use democracy and democratic methods more creatively for achieving the goals enshrined in the Constitution. This is the larger meaning and significance of the victory of the post-poll alliance in Karnataka.

The author served as an Officer on Special Duty and the Press Secretary to the former President of India, late K.R. Narayanan.

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