The visible hand

BJP must not stake claim to form a Ministryin Karnataka without an absolute majority
The political crisis in Karnataka that has been brewing for months has boiled over, threatening the Congress-Janata Dal(S) coalition government. With 13 of its MLAs resigning from the Assembly in phases, and one independent withdrawing his support, the coalition’s original strength of 118 in the 224-seat House appears to have come down to 104. If all the resignations are found valid and accepted by the Speaker, the halfway mark will drop from 113 to 106. The BJP has 105 MLAs and the support of independent MLA Nagesh, who has resigned as a Minister. All the Congress and JD(S) Ministers have resigned to allow the leadership the space to lure back the dissidents. With allegations of bribery, and abduction and confinement of lawmakers, what is unfolding is a mockery of democracy and a shameful disregard for the 2018 verdict. Though there are contradictions in the coalition and both parties had fought last year’s election separately, post-poll coalitions are a legitimate and honourable route to the formation of a government in a hung Assembly. The legislators driven by nothing more than their greed are not setting a good example. Even if the Congress and the JD(S) manage to quell the rebellion and save the government, the truce will be dubious and tainted.
The BJP’s maximalist approach of seizing power by all means and in all places may have served it well in terms of expanding its footprint. But this approach does not conform to its claimed adherence to democracy. In Arunachal Pradesh and Goa, the BJP had acted on its philosophy that the pursuit of power justifies all means. In Karnataka, the party has used the strategy of engineering resignations of MLAs to force by-elections several times over the last decade. Given this pattern, and considering the BJP State unit’s relentless attempts to destabilise the coalition from the word go, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s protestations in Parliament on Monday that the BJP had nothing to do with the current crisis in Karnataka carries little credibility. The party has meanwhile said that it would seek to form an alternative government, should the coalition crumble. The BJP must resist that temptation and instead wait for the results of the by-elections caused by the resignations. If the coalition collapses under its own weight, any alternative arrangement that is short of an absolute majority of the total strength of the House will be shaky and lacking in political legitimacy. That situation is best avoided.

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