Lessons from Karnataka

Kashmir Times. Dated: 5/17/2018 1:06:13 PM

The only way to counter the increasing Hindutva constituency is opposition unity

The hung assembly thrown up by the Karnataka elections opens up the floor to the possibility of a Congress-JD(S) coalition government, a claim that has already been publicly staked, or the bid by the BJP to engage in horse-trading. BJP has emerged as the single largest party but falls short by 7 seats. The Congress with 78 seats and JD (S) with 37 can comfortably sail across the requisite half way mark for forming the government. Given this possibility of post poll alliance and the lack of majority with the BJP, the Congress-JD(S) alliance has an advantage. In any case, a post poll alliance is any day better than the proposition of poaching for legislators which underlines the excessively corrupt practices in politics. The ball, however, is in the governor's court as to who he would invite for forming the government. He cannot be guided by the principle of first past the post since that is not constitutionally mandated. He cannot also be dictated by bias that governor's post has become notorious for. He must decide on the merits of the case and understand which of his decisions would enhance the possibility of ugly spectacle of horse trading. There is no constitutional validity in the claim that the single largest party should get the first chance. If this were the case, many governments formed after assembly and parliamentary polls in the last several decades should have been declared illegal and unconstitutional. One of the recent cases is of BJP-Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party alliance in Goa despite Congress emerging as the single largest party. There cannot be two yardsticks for BJP upstaging Congress by forming post poll alliance and for Congress trying to do a similar thing.
Whatever be the final outcome, the two loud and clear messages must not be missed. Both the ability of the BJP to emerge as the single largest party and its difficulty in forming the government are instructive of the possibilities that may emerge in the Lok Sabha elections next year. Though state assembly elections shortly before Lok Sabha polls are not a referendum on the latter, the mood of the Karnataka elections and the utilization of electoral strategies is a small reflection of the way things might pan out. While local issues determining the outcome of the polls cannot be ignored, the nation-wide appeal of the two main parties is also under scrutiny. That BJP managed to poll the highest number of seats and improved its vote share in the southern state demonstrates the appetite and appeal of its Hindutva politics and to some extent of Modi's popularity coupled with the rhetoric of lies and historical distortions that he is known for using as an election strategy. The party has miserably failed to deliver on any of its development or good governance promises and its improved tally is an indication of the acceptability of its Hindutva brand of politics. Congress' decreased tally does not clearly reveal an anti-incumbency factor since its vote share remains intact, though its rash gimmick of putting its weight behind Lingayat community appears to have backfired. More importantly, that Congress is in a position to stake claim to government formation in Karnataka shows the necessity of the party to understand the vital need for a stronger grand alliance before the Lok Sabha polls. The Karnataka verdict shows the increasing appeal for Hindu rashtra among Indian masses and it also shows that without a stronger and united opposition, nation-wide, there can be nothing to challenge this juggernaut. In all probability, the BJP will use the same set of strategies with much greater application of organizational skills. The Congress, Left and regional players need to read the writing on the wall and strategise themselves accordingly.



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