After ruling Karnataka through an unusual alliance for 13 months, the game seems over for the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, as 13 members of legislative assembly (MLA) resigned in the last week, bringing the coalition’s tally in the assembly to 105, eight less than the majority figure of 113 in a 224 member house. Though the speaker hasn’t accepted the resignations and will take a call when the assembly opens for the monsoon session on 12 July, it’s unlikely that Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and Congress party’s DK Shivakumar will be able to save the fractured government from collapsing.
Why the Congress-JD(S) alliance is facing an inevitable collapse in Karnataka?
The answer to this question lies in the intense poaching exercise initiated by Amit Shah, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief, ever since his party won 105 seats in the legislative assembly election in 2018, yet couldn’t form the government on its own. When the Congress and the JD(S) formed a surprising alliance in the post-poll scenario, bringing their tally to 118 in the house, the BJP suffered a major setback in the first southern state where it found an organic foothold.
Since then, the BJP chief, and his local proxy, the notorious former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, started poaching the MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) with promises of ministerial berths, millions of rupees, contracts, etc. These deals are quite lucrative for the MLAs who participate in the parliamentary democracy to amass wealth and consolidate power. The Congress and the JD(S) had nothing much to offer them except consolation, tall promises and other lullabies, which none of these MLAs did like. Actually, from the first day, the coalition was quagmired in antagonisms, ego-clash and contradiction between different political stalwarts, especially, a visibly upset Kumaraswamy, who was made the chief minister by the Congress party, with Shivakumar pulling the strings.
For months, both coalition partners were trying to prevent the poaching of their MLAs by an over-enthusiastic Yeddyurappa. The barriers broke once the Congress and JD(S) alliance performed poorly in the Lok Sabha election, where they could win only two seats out of 24 seats while the BJP won 22 seats on its own. The MLAs with these parties didn’t see any secure future with the coalition and have been negotiating with Yeddyurappa. Finally, the moment arrived in the first week of July itself. The fortress was breached, Yeddyurappa is wearing the victorious smile.
The baits of Yeddyurappa and the BJP are so lucrative that no amount of persuasion by the Congress and the JD(S) leadership is breaking the logjam. Showing their affiliation to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the pack of MLAs flew to Mumbai in a plane owned by Rajeev Chandrashekhar — the BJP MP and owner of its mouthpiece television channel Republic TV — and thereby unplugged themselves from any efforts by the Congress and JD(S) coalition to woo them.
The shaddy parliamentary democracy: From pigsty to horse stable
Parliamentary democracy in India has entered a phase of naked collaboration with big capital and horse-trading is an integral part of its culture. The BJP has been able to do horse-trading better than other parties, thanks to the huge amount of money it has in its coffer, donated by big foreign and domestic corporations that seek their business interests protected and expanded by the Modi regime. However, it’s the ideological fluidity, criminalisation of politics, the dominance of unscrupulous elements in parliamentary politics, and above all, the endorsement of such utmost corrupt and notorious characters by the electorate that have collectively created a situation like the present one in Karnataka.
Earlier, India had experienced the coalition-building skills of Shah and Modi, as they included the most unlikely allies and also bought MLAs and MPs from other parties en masse. In West Bengal, for example, the BJP is increasing its tally in the legislative assembly by poaching ruling Trinamool Congress MLAs by offering them legal immunity and a huge amount of money. In Tripura, the BJP even bought the entire opposition prior to the 2018 assembly election, without even winning a single seat in the 2013 assembly election. Through poaching, the BJP became the largest opposition party in Tripura by 2017, before winning power in 2018.
Politics in Karnataka is absolutely polarised using communal innuendos, vitriol and bush telegraphs by the BJP and other affiliates of the Hindutva fascist camp led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which gave an impetus to Yeddyurappa and his associates to carry out large-scale poaching drive even being accused of big-ticket scams. The saffronisation of politics, the Hindu polarisation, and the dominance of a corrupt, fascist ideology in the state have legitimised the acts of volte-face by the MLAs.
The optics of a government trying to prevent MLA poaching by the opposition, and the offering of millions from illegally amassed wealth to either retain or wean away MLAs, who won an election either due to their political affiliation or due to their personal charisma, have become quite normal for the urban elites, middle class and the feudal classes, who are the core decision-makers in Karnataka. The conscience of the state that sleeps when a prominent firebrand journalist like Gauri Lankesh or a famous writer like MM Kalburgi are shot dead, is unlikely to react against the gross violation of democratic norms by a gang of thugs trying to fuel fratricide and genocide in the state.
Lenin called parliament a “pigsty” in the last century. In one century, the institution of parliamentary democracy evolved to become a horse stable, where the trading of MLAs and MPs can be done with utmost impunity by those who have the ability to pay the highest bid. After the cricket series — Indian Premier League — where cricketers are auctioned to the highest bidder, the parliamentary democracy shows the exciting bidding game, which is ironically termed as MLAs or MPs becoming “rebel” by the mainstream media.
Kumaraswamy’s government will go as it will see more erosion and switching of the alliance. It won’t be surprising if Kumaraswamy takes the JD(S) to the BJP’s camp and share power with Yeddyurappa to make a win-win situation. An utmost corrupt and communal Yeddyurappa may rise to power without the people agitating against his heinous schemes to overturn democratic norms or the mockery of the so-called democracy, as these incidents are neither new nor surprising to the people of India; as corruption in public life has become an accessory of the quotidian existence of parliamentary democracy.
This situation, this dramatic fall and formation of governments through surprising alliances, the politics of money bag, the game of coalitions and resignations have a very good optics for those who belong to the people’s camp. Now that the so-called liberal democrats’ cheering for the “Karnataka model” will come to a halt due to the abrupt end of their dream regime, the common people — the working class, the peasantry and the toiled people — can be shown how the parliamentary democracy isn’t about raising their voice; it never was. They can be shown how ideological fluidity helps the parliamentary politicians to change their party and ideology (!) in lieu of money. The “rebel” MLAs of Karnataka, the failure of the Congress and the JD(S) alliance in keeping the BJP at bay from power, and the BJP’s aggressive posture prove, without ambiguity, there can be no real resistance and victory against the Hindutva fascist juggernaut through the parliamentary path. This optics, if used in the right format, can help in consolidating the people’s democratic struggle against Hindutva fascism. Karnataka is doomed, so is the parliamentary democracy that the Indian politicians uphold with the utmost craze. In the changed situation, in Modi’s so-called “New India”, a new form of resistance and politics must be embraced to hit back at the fascist juggernaut and to establish a new democracy for the majority of the people, ie the exploited and oppressed masses of toiled and labouring classes.