By MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN , 24th March 2013
For the first time in the annals of the electoral history of Karnataka, an unusual dilemma has begun to haunt the voters, even as the stage is being set to hold the polls to 224 members Karnataka Legislative Assembly on May 5th.
The two principal parties, who were mandated by the electorate in 2008 to function as the ruling and opposition parties in the assembly have let down them very badly. The BJP, which has been waiting in the wings for the past three terms, was entrusted with the task of governing the state, while the Congress was made to crucial question of who should be trusted to govern the state. For, the two principal parties, the BJP and Congress, who were mandated by the electorate in 2008 to play the role of the ruling and opposition parties respectively, let down people very badly.
But it rule turned out to an unmitigated disaster pure and simple. It was not an act of naivety of a party which was new to power but product of deliberate recklessness. On the other hand as a principal opposition party, the Congress was cavalier and casual in the discharge of its responsibilities. It is not that the Congress was occupying the opposition benches for the first time. Right from 1983, it has been hopping in and out of the opposition parties but it was apparent that the Congress has not learnt to play the role of the opposition. Had it been sincere in discharging its duties, it could have definitely reined in the government from going wayward.
The tragedy in Karnataka politics is that there is no third alternative. The Congress and BJP between themselves have been garnering around 70% of votes in the assembly election. After the collapse of the third force experiment in Karnataka, the state has turned out to be almost bipolar. The Janata Dal (S) of Devegowda, a remnant of the short-lived third force experiment in Karnataka, has not been able to recapture the glory of the parent party, which ruled for three terms, namely 1983, 1985 and 1994. It has suffered a stunted growth, with its influence not going beyond the confines of the couple of vokkaliga districts in the Old Mysore. It is therefore destined to play the third political field.
Of course two more breakaway groups of the BJP, namely the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) led by the estranged BJP leader and former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and the Badavara Shramikara Ryotara (BSR) Congress coming from the infamous stables of Janardan Reddy group, are out to test electoral water this time. But the point is that they are there more to “teach” the BJP a lesson rather than emerge as independent political identity. Besides, the Karnataka voters have always frowned upon the individual leaders building up political aura based on personal aura. If the trends of the just concluded urban election where they failed miserably are any indication, they hardly stand any chance. The BSR Congress was worsted in his home base of Bellary district.
The BJP remained in political dog house, till eighties. The upswing in its fortunes came in nineties, mainly thanks to the strategic understanding/alliance with undivided Janata Dal and later the Ramakrishna Hegde led JDU. The decimation of the JDU after the demise of its founder Ramakrishna Hegde helped the BJP to step in to fill the gap especially in Northern region of the state, which holds good even today.
The BJP’s rise from the nineties was quite meteoric After sitting in the as principal opposition for the about twelve years spanning across two full tenures and half of the third, the BJP moved to the treasury benches in 2006 as a partner of the coalition government with its arch political rival JDS, the BJP came to power on its own steam two years later in 2008. The BJP which fell one short of simple majority initially ruled with the help of independents and later managed to secure the majority of its own through the politically unethical “Operation Kamala” designed to wean away the opposition legislators for consideration of course and make them contest by-election on their party ticket. But the people of Karnataka put up with this act of indiscretion and continued to trust Yeddyurappa, the then Chief Minister; The BJP government virtually sailed in cloud nine for the first three years. It looked as if the party and the were set for long political innings in Karnataka much beyond the current term.
But collapse came soon. The edifice built assiduously over the decades collapsed ultimately like a pack of cards as the subsequent events proved. What did the BJP and Yeddyurappa give in return to the people who had reposed confidence – a government which is totally nonperforming , which had been inextricably drawn into the vortex of corruption of unprecedented dimension, unresponsive to the needs of people and created an atmosphere where the scruples and probity in public life had been mercilessly jettisoned.
The wrecker in chief proved to be none other than Yeddyurappa. Under his very nose, the illegal mining scam with his own ministers bleeding the state finances openly without any sense of remorse. It looked as if the ministers and legislators had no business other than amassing money. He ruled more by whims and fancies and his impulses passed off as policy and Yeddyurappa chose to over look the fact there was nothing like discipline in administration.
Stung by the fact the high command forced him to quit in the context of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, and unable to come back to power, he tried the proxy rule by putting his protégés in chair namely Sadanand Gowda and Jagadish Shettar. He pulled down Gowda who refused to toe his line and unsuccessfully tried to unseat Shettar too. There was no government worth the name in the last two years, with a frustrated Yeddyurappa ranting and raving and started tirade against the government. When it became clear that high command would not allow him to come back till he was cleared of the charges of corruption, Yeddyurappa out of pique went out of the party to form his own outfit the KJP.
Yeddyurappa by nature has been a lone wolf and believes hunting solo and not in pack. That’s how he had run the party in the past and wanted to run the government the same way. The one consequence of it is that the no second line leadership has been allowed to grow; as a result, BJP in Karnataka has not been able to spot one leader who could galvanise the party for meeting the electoral challenge.
On the other hand, the role of Congress as the principal opposition party has been quite patchy during this period. The party initially tried to pull down the BJP government with the good offices of the Governor and its own party government at the Centre. When the efforts failed to fructify, it simply called quits and relapsed into silence. Not on a single occasion, it has taken up the cause of the peoples grievances to the people on the floor of the assembly. Barring issuing press statements from time to time, it has preciously done nothing to espouse the cause of the people. The leaders have hardly gone to people to vibe with their grievances.
The basic problem of the Congress in Karnataka is that it suffers from lack of leadership. It has many leaders who have held high public office but for the party work and for serious work in legislature none is available. It has singularly failed to capitalize on the lapses of the party in power. The paradox is that while the voters by default may be prepared to support the party, the Congress leaders are not ready. to receive the same. Because they more worried about who would occupy the Chief Minister next time rather than attend to the task of working for the success of the party in the forthcoming election. The Congress in nutshell has become both insipid and moribund.
Under the circumstances, the voters have a Hobson’s choice on hand over extending the patronage in the election. The prospects of single party government being returned to power depend on to what extent the people resolve the dilemma. Other wise, hung verdict stares in the face reverting the state back into the lap of the coalition era, once again.
(Author is a Senior Journalist and Columnist. His contact details are ; Mobile: +91 94480 74872 Email :Madan Mohan <firstname.lastname@example.org>)