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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Karnataka Elections – The Bigger Picture

Team Being Cynical
Before we start - Just look at Siddharamaya in this picture. He is exhibiting the expression that is reserved for the father of that girl who introduces her boyfriend with shoulder length hair and tattoos at all inappropriate places. Isn't it that a picture depicts 1000 words?

This Karnataka election should be remembered for many reasons. It could easily be one of the most interesting elections that I have witnessed in my life. I initially thought of terming it ‘surprising’ but after a while I found, there actually isn’t anything much surprising here. Neither I was surprised a bit when the numbers started pouring in, nor am I surprised now seeing democracy being reduced to some shameless ‘Resort Politics’. And I have my reasons why I am not surprised a bit even today. But much on that later. Most of the psephologists predicted a hung verdict. My own prediction was around 108 seats for BJP. Hence the results that threw itself up on May 15th shouldn’t have astounded many, not just me. If one looks at last 30 years’ history of Karnataka politics, it always had been the case where the incumbent government was thrown out. So, Congress getting a beating here was more than a predictable outcome. Even the history was against the Congress party, not just the voters. I would rather be surprised if any Congressi, in private, would say that he believed they would make it back to the Vidan Saudha to govern again. 

Now you would be wondering why I am not flummoxed looking at the kind of politics being played by Congress post the results. After all a so called grand old national party is expected to exhibit at least the minimum grace in defeat.  The party got reduced from 122 seats to 78; 17 of the serving ministers lost their election, including the CM from his home town; vote share as well as seats plummeted to unbelievable low in many key Congress bastions. I mean, there are more than handful of reasons for Congress to accept the defeat gracefully and sit out in the opposition. But they are far from doing what is expected of a graceful and dignified competitor that lost the race. They in fact are busy forming the government by any means, though it looks great lot shameful for a national party. By supporting JD(S) unconditionally and rendering and reducing itself to a mere filler and a doorknob, Congress seems to have ditched the bare minimum grace we still expect from our political parties. This could easily be the lowest point that Congress plummeted in recent times. But I am still not surprised and as I said, I have reasons to not be surprised. Let’s see what are those.

It is no secret that Congress is almost wiped out from the political demography. You don’t need ACP Pradyuman’s intellect to realize this. Nothing can better depict the situation of the Congress party than the image on the right. As I always say, a desperate situation. Karnataka was the last ‘milch cow’ and ATM for the party. The situation was so disastrous for Congress that they simply can’t lose Karnataka. It both has huge political as well as monetary repercussions. Financially they are almost crippled as state after state being snatched from them quite unceremoniously. Even their decades long bastions like the North-East is no more with them. The loss is not only political, there is lot of corrupt money that goes away with each state. At this rate, they would not be in a position financially to fight the 2019 general elections with valour. Something must be done. That said, financial loss is just part of the problem. The bigger problem is the political irrelevance that would creep in event of a loss in Karnataka. Congress may even lose the national party tag. Whenever Congress had a direct fight with BJP in last 5-6 years they were literally decimated. Looking at the number of states they have lost to BJP in last 4 years alone would make the 2019 general elections a foregone conclusion. They are staring at a humiliating defeat yet again. Only hope that is left for them is to somehow bring in regional satraps alongside to create a combined opposition. Individually even the regional parties are no match for BJP. Only option, flock together.

To the utter despair of Congress, previous attempts at forming some kind of united opposition has failed miserably. Secretly funded good for nothing individuals like Arvind Kejriwal or Raj Thakrey aren’t yielding much either. Other rogues like Hardik Patel, Kanheiya Kumar and Kishore Mewani failed too. Congress hoped to sail through Gujarat with help of these rogues but they couldn’t. All Dalit fracas didn’t stick either. There has to be a template that can give some semblance of assurance that it would work to some extent, if not fully; and time is running out. Out of this desperation for existence Congress could only see JD(S) as a saviour. Without thinking much of their reputation, they readily agreed to support JD(S) to form the government. No strings attached. A party that could barely gather 38 seats with 30 of them coming from one single region of a big state like Karnataka was offered the CM’s seat and still most in Congress can’t spot the irony in their decision. 

They literally have gone down on their knees and started licking shoes so that they could remain relevant. Such a shameful situation for a national party to land itself in. Even calling it an irony appears such an understatement now. Perhaps the lust for power makes you sell your dignity at the first instance. That said, there is a long-term hope for Congress in this self-inflicted shame. This very hope prompted Sonia Gandhi to call H.D Devegowda and beg for help in exchange of no pre-conditions. And the hope is – this shameful act may just build a template where other regional parties can be fitted in running up to 2019 general elections. In recent times, we had instances where rabid political enemies were forced to sallow their respective spit and join hands to remain relevant. Be it Lalu-Nitish or SP-BSP, it has brought some kind of political success against BJP. No harm in licking our own spit again and join hands with another sore enemy like JD(s) if it satisfies our lust for power.

Now let’s see the bigger picture.

How long such an unholy association would survive in case the combination is called to form the government? If history is any kind of pointer then all previous support of Congress party to smaller outfits in forming the governments were, well, in lack of a better word, uninspiring. Be it Chandrasekhar, IK Gujaral or Devegowda himself, all coalitions were sucked out of their wind by the Congress party within a years’ time. When it comes to Congress and their support to smaller parties, it always was the lust for power of Congress that ruled the decision at the end. They are a serial offender in pulling down the governments that they themselves supported for power. It is the arrival of the right time and the plug is pulled. It is all about the unbelievable greed that Congress never tries to hide. And I don’t see any exception with the present offer of support they have issued to JD(S). They will drag this coalition till 2019 elections with a hope that the template would bring more allies. I won’t be surprised if they would agree to denounce the PM’s seat to someone else so that they remain in power somehow. There are lots of ifs and buts here but a realistic dream nonetheless for Congress. Now if this coalition manages to win the election, which is highly unlikely in many fronts, the arrangement in Karnataka may survive a little longer. If they manage to lose then knowing Congress, I don’t see any reason left for them to continue. They simply would pull the plug and call for fresh elections as that would give them a glimmer of chance to come back to power in Karnataka. They may lose the state yet again but worth an attempt nonetheless. Congress simply can’t stay away from power for long and do nothing sinister. That is not the qualities of the Congress party that I know. I won’t be surprised if they still would pull the plug even after they manage to win 2019 with a ‘Khichdi’ coalition. No other party knows better on how to usurp the power of your own allies and there are ample examples of the Congress party carrying out midnight coups in lust for power.

Now let’s guess what would happen if BJP as the single largest party is invited to form the government. But before that, how would BJP pass the confidence motion on the floor when they are falling short by 8 MLAs. Only option left is horse-trading. Honestly, I don’t see any harm in horse-trading here. When you toss the CM’s seat to an absolute incompetent individual and a loser with no mandate, just to satisfy your ego and lust, the other party should and must deploy all possible methods under the sun to spoil your unholy plan. No morality preaching here please. If it is horse-trading, so be it. Now post the 99th amendment poaching opposition MLAs no more remains that easy. The best BJP can do here is to ask those bought out MLAs to abstain on the floor test day thereby reducing the half way mark till the numbers they have. But will this manipulated majority mark work for five years? Will BJP leave itself vulnerable in the state by running a potentially minority government through its entire period? The answer to such queries lies again on the 2019 elections. If BJP loses then they may not want to lose Karnataka as well. In fact no party would. They would rather prefer to continue. Now if BJP wins 2019 then it would become a whole new ball game. The popular wave would be with BJP post 2019. A right time to get rid of this minority government and call for fresh elections in the state. This would pamper two purposes. 1st – By riding the wave of the general elections they would try to cross the magic number of 113 in the state to form a stable government on their own. 2nd – BJP’s long tern goal is to combine both general and state elections together. By holding Karnataka elections in 2019 with a fresh mandate, they would ensure that another major state will come in line with the general elections period. And I don’t think I may be required to explain how a common election period for centre and state helps the ruling party at the centre no end. So, in nut shell, even if BJP manages to form the government they wouldn’t want to continue with a sword on their head. It is always better to get back to the voters whom voted for you in the recently concluded election for national duty and seek their mandate for the state. Of course, it would also depend how well BJP performs in the Loksabha seats in the state of Karnataka. Any adverse performance, even though nationally they still are the winner, BJP would prefer to stay away from seeking fresh mandate in the state.

But, whosoever forms the government, will the people of Karnataka get what they wished for from their new government? Your guess is as good as mine. A stop-gap arrangement, that Karnataka has become, for both national parties, the interest of the incumbent would be to churn the state for the upcoming general election than serving the people for whom they were elected. Our politicians are selfish and I don’t expect them to stretch themselves beyond their interest and comfort zone to think for the populace. That hasn’t happened in independent India’s history and I don’t see any credible reason to expect a change.

By-and-large a hung verdict has let Karnatak become a political pivot to be exploited and abused at the mercy of the politicians, till at least 2019 elections are over. I feel sorry for the people of Karnataka but politics never was meant to safeguard the interest of the citizens. Had serving people been the inherent motto of our politics, we wouldn’t have witnessed hundreds of Congress and JD(S) MLAs hurled into buses like animals and ferried to a five-star resort just outside of Bengaluru so that no body poaches them.

I am speechless!!

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