The fallacy of elections


Just this week we saw how democratic election results can be hijacked by instruments of democracy – I am referring here to the State Elections in the Southern Indian State of Karnataka. As most people know, Bangalore is the famed capital city of the Karnataka State which is responsible for the IT revolution which propelled India as the world’s leading software services power.

This is not the first time, and it will not be the last time that such hijacks take place in the democratic process. By and large, India has proved that democracy does work as a system of government over the past seven decades, except for a brief two-year period when it was itself hijacked with the imposition of “emergency” in 1975 -77. Well, there are many lacunae in any system of government, and democracy is no exception. It has its own share of problems in implementation, but that is for another blog post!

The federally appointed Governor of Karnataka State invited the Opposition BJP Party to form the government, instead of inviting the ruling Congress Party which had formed an alliance with another party, the JDS. The number of legislators in this alliance was 117, as against the 104 in BJP. In the normal procedure, the Governor would have invited the biggest alliance which can then win a trust vote in the State Assembly.

However, the Governor invited the single largest party (the BJP) and gave it 15 days to prove its majority in the State Assembly, which is only possible if BJP is able to snare at least 8 legislators from Congress/JDS alliance. And, how will that happen? Just think about it. India has already passed the Anti-Defection Law, which means it would be hard for legislators or parliamentarians to cross the aisle and join the other party. It is also not moral to do so, having been elected under the auspices of the party under whose symbol the legislator(s) won the election.

In other State Elections in India, the respective Governors had invited the biggest alliance to form the government, not the single largest party. That suited BJP (the party which rules India at the federal level) in couple of States. However, in the case of Karnataka, they tried to change that rule which a Governor should follow once he or she receives the letters of commitment from the legislators.

So, what happened?

In a tense 3 days of drama, played out in the Supreme Court of India and in Bangalore, the BJP lost out against the alliance of Congress/JDS. I am not in favour of either party, but I am concerned when the powers that be plays out the political game with utter disregard towards established precedents under their own rule. The Supreme Court played a central and decisive role in the whole episode and determined what way things should go in Karnataka State Assembly – it gave just 24 hours to the BJP Chief Minister (who had been invited by the State Governor to form the government) to face a trust vote in the Assembly. So, left with no time to indulge in horse-trading both sides brought their safely guarded legislators to the Assembly for the trust vote. Facing the loss of the trust vote, the BJP Chief Minister resigned.

The whole drama could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had intervened and ensured that proper procedures are followed. The fight should be at the hustings, not at the assembly after the elections were completed. Exposing the respective parties’ machinations to the common man and to the world at large, and going to the Supreme Court which was forced to intervene are not good examples of running the world’s largest democracy.

This proves that at the end of the day, all politicians are the same in India. Some are articulate, polished, well-behaved, and most are corrupt and bend rules in their favour. However, when it comes to winning elections, they let lose anarchy and throw principles to the wind. Similar things happen in other nations as well in varying degrees. However, India cannot risk its strong democratic institutions and the three well delineated arms of governance – the Executive, the Parliament/Legislature, and the Judiciary. These are self-balancing to a large extent, and each one is expected to check on the abuse of power by any other arm, and eventually balance the overall system of governance.

What the Karnataka Elections proved is simple – the will of the people have to be respected and cannot be manipulated in the way that one party wants. The alternative would be to call for re-elections at a great cost, annoying the voters; or, to bring down the government once it has been formed by legislative techniques and defections. However, it has been proven time and again that the voters exercise their power at the hustings to elect their representatives and have the ultimate power to dislodge parties which do not perform to their expectations.

Viva La Democracy, or to put it precisely “vive la démocratie!”.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th May 2018

 

One thought on “The fallacy of elections

  1. Satish Shenoy

    The will of the people was effectively thwarted by the Congress and JDS. JDS Kumarswamy has always been opportunistic and kept his options open till the end as to whom he would tie up with – his 40 MLAs have always been the spoiler and transform him to a kingmaker or rather transform him to be king. Do the math – 224 seats of which 221 could be counted since Kumarswamy stood and won from two seats and two seats within Bangalore election was deferred. Deduct 38 from 221 and you get 183. A party requiring to get simple majority of 111 seats would need to win 61% of all the remaining seats available. Considering two major parties were in the fray apart from JDS, each party if equally desired by the voters should have won 90 seats. Congress won only 78 and BJP 104 clearly showing that the people’s mandate was for BJP. Secondly BJP grew from earlier 20 seats to 104. Congress fell from earlier 122 to 78 and JDS reduced from 40 to 38.

    During campaigning JDS and Congress were at loggerheads with each other since the earlier Congress CM, Siddaramiah, is hated by the Gowda family. There are also earlier historic reasons between Deve Gowda and Indira’s Congress where Indira cheated him completely. Congress was openly asking public not to vote for JDS as they are the B team of BJP. The minute Congress realized that BJP may get majority they jumped across to JDS and offered full and unconditional support if JDS forms the Govt. Kumarswamy was only too happy to get the CM post and immediately accepted.

    Before the Congress party rule in Karnataka, there was JDS + BJP. Kumarswamy insisted on becoming CM at that time and had agreed to give the BJP deputy CM the post of CM after 2.5 years but refused to do so when it was time for him to relinquish his post. In the next elections Congress leveraged on this and came back to power. This time Congress have made a pact with their sworn enemy to ensure they stay relevant still in national politics else their presence would have been only in Punjab among the large states.

    The people who gave the larger number of 104 seats to a single party are obviously feeling betrayed. Democracy has been murdered by Congress yet again with their “secular” nonsense. Muslims are a minority as per the Congress despite being the second largest community within India by numbers and among the largest population of Muslims in any country in the World! Secularism indeed!

    Regards

    Satish

    Satish Shenoy

    Accumen Consultants

    +91 9844008267

    _____

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