Roots of post-poll political crises in some Indian States : Rajeev Sharma

Political developments in the southern Indian state of Karnataka are unsavoury, with members of the legislature unabashedly hankering for just one thing – ministerial posts of the right kind.

But developments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Goa, after the April-May parliamentary elections, reflect some unresolved fundamental issues which should set leaders of the various political parties thinking.

One is the domino effect of the sweeping victory of one party or grouping at the Center on politics in the States. The second is the inequity in giving a person from a smaller party the powerful position of Chief Minister. The third is a lack of direction from the Congress leadership consequent to the resignation of Rahul Gandhi from the post of Congress President.

The Scenario :

Over the past week, as many as 18 legislators of the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) combine resigned, turning the 13-month-old government into a minority.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy refused to resign even as the State Assembly began its session on July 12. Instead, he advised Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar to hold a floor test. His Congress partner, Siddaramiah, went a step further and said: “We are confident. That is why we are moving a motion expressing confidence in the government. The BJP is afraid because they know there are black sheep in their party.”

The belligerence of Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah promises to make the Assembly session an exciting one.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court directed that neither the issue of resignation of 18 MLAs nor that of their disqualification by the Speaker be decided till coming Tuesday. This means that the interregnum may see more political moves, counter moves and horse trading.

There had been a flaw in the formation of the Karnataka government after the last State Assembly elections. The Congress party had emerged as the single largest party but its ally the smaller Janata Dal Secular was given the State Chief Ministeship. This was against the peoples’ mandate and created problems.

The BJP punctured this unsustainable political arrangement in the 2019 general elections by winning 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka. Its victory has triggered dissensions in the ruling coalition.

The crisis has much to do with the current void within the Congress, the 134-year-old party that has been in crisis day after day since the May general elections. In the polls the BJP had made mincemeat of the entire opposition, especially the Congress.

For the second consecutive time, the Congress had failed to get even 55 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha which are required for getting the post of Leader of the Opposition. The Congress got only 52 seats.

It has been over seven weeks since Rahul Gandhi resigned as Congress President taking moral responsibility for the second successive humiliating electoral loss. But not a single leader has shown an ambition to occupy the top post of party President. This is a far cry from the days when leaders like Sharad Pawar, Rajesh Pilot and Jitendra Prasada did not shy away from taking on Sonia Gandhi.

The current impasse in the Congress party will only embolden the BJP to go the whole hog to establish a “Congress-mukt Bharat” or a Congress-free India.

If that were to happen, it won’t be good either for Indian politics or Indian democracy. The CPI(M)-led Left Front is already facing a threat to its existence as a major force. Such a scenario will push India to an Opposition a-less state and one-party dominance which will be detrimental to democracy in the country. There had been an unusual arrangement whereby, the Congress, a much bigger party in the State Assembly in terms of numbers, gave the Chief Minister’s post to the JDS, a much smaller entity in the assembly. This was a blatant negation of the electoral mandate.

But wresting power in the state by poaching on coalition MLAs could be a recipe for disaster for the BJP in the long term. It will bloat the BJP artificially and make the party more open to the risk of dissensions and inner contradictions, making it vulnerable to a collapse due to its own weight.

Crisis in Other States :

Karnataka’s is just one of a number of political trouble spots in the country. Madhya Pradesh is in a crisis too. The Congress had wrested the State from the BJP seven months ago after 15 long years, albeit with a wafer-thin majority. But there is trouble in the Madhya Pradesh Congress, making the State government a low-hanging fruit for the BJP.

In Goa, ten opposition legislators have already switched to the BJP, giving it a comfortable majority in the State Assembly where the Congress had emerged as the single largest party in the elections held not too long ago.

# Rajeev Sharma is an independent journalist and a political analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.

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