By T.J.S. GEORGE
What a curse democracy has become. It truly is bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. With no stops. Look at the cabinet circus in Karnataka. Look at Devendra Phadnavis fighting ally-turned-enemy Shiv Sena. Look at Yogi Adityanath still struggling to figure out whether governance is animal or vegetable. Look, if you have the heart, at the tragic spectacle of Manohar Parrikar, stricken with advanced cancer, being forced to carry on as chief minister in Goa because the party wants to safeguard its interests. Pathetic.
The MLA circus of the kind seen in Karnataka is by now a familiar feature of Indian politics. Parliament went to the extent of amending the Constitution in 1985 to pass the anti-defection law. The aim was to stop “the evil of political defection.” The evil never stopped. The resort politics popularised by N.T. Rama Rao continues unabated. The old motto of Aya Ram Gaya Ram has given way to the new bazaar practice of Buy Ram Sell Ram.
The Kumaraswamy government that carries on precariously in Karnataka was the result of swalpa adjust maadi between the Congress and Gowda-run Janata Dal (Secular). The BJP’s Yeddyurappa sat momentarily in the seat of power thanks to the connivance of the State’s BJP Governor. But not all the treasures of Arabia could buy him a majority in the House and Yeddyurappa had to quit before he could form a government.
But the Buy Ram Sell Ram culture continued as the latest “crisis” has proved. The BJP was out to buy 12 to 15 Congress MLAs and negotiations must have progressed far enough for several MLAs to be housed in luxury water holes in Delhi and Mumbai and other places. More than ten Congress MLAs had apparently conducted their bargains successfully. But Yeddyurappa & Co., still could not reach the magic number that would have toppled the government.
Then came the Congress shouting from the hilltops that no force could bring its government down. Translated into everyday language, it meant that the Congress-JD(S) had out-bid the BJP in the auction of MLAs. As the ruling combination, they could offer not only cash but also Ministerships and Boards’ Chairmanships, both recognised routes to riches. Expect new ministers in the cabinet with plans of course to serve the people. Congress leader Siddharamaiah, sounding more innocent than a baby, accused Yeddyurappa of horse trading and “offering crores of rupees” to Congress MLAs. What a nasty thing to do to the pure-as-heaven Congress.
The chances are that the crisis and its sudden ending (has it ended?) were more than a Congress-BJP affair. A Congress-Congress combat could as well have been part of it. The power struggle within the Karnataka Congress is no secret. Siddharamaiah who headed the Congress government until Kumaraswamy took over in May last year is not reconciled to his loss of office. He speaks and acts like the Congress party boss if not also as the effective Chief Minister. That means a barely hidden confrontation with party maverick and troubleshooter, D.K. Shivakumar. The long-standing ambition of Shivakumar to become Chief Minister makes him an active player in the buy and sell market. Ambitions are not snuffed out by temporary ceasefires. So the drama in Karnataka will continue, crisis giving way to peace and peace breaking into crisis.
That pattern has become part of life across the country. Those in power believe that they should remain there indefinitely while those in opposition believe it is their right to topple the government and take over. To achieve their aims, sworn enemies become close friends, like Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have done in UP and Chandrasekhar Rao and Jagan Mohan Reddy in Hyderabad. Every tukda party is proclaiming that it will join hands with “like-minded partners.” All are like-minded in their shared greed for power.
What makes politicians different from ordinary human beings is the certainty with which they can extoll their own supposed virtues and ridicule others. At a long, televised press conference in Guwahati last week the BJP’s Ram Madhav did just that. He proclaimed how mahagathbandhan parties were unstable, corrupt and devoid of vision while the BJP was stable, corruptionless and visionary. As simple as that. What a pity that there are citizens in India who vote for unstable, corrupt and visionless parties when the saints and angels of the BJP are ready to sacrifice themselves for the country.
We already have the facts and figures of tomorrow: public presentation of lies as truths, intolerance, polarisation, religious violence. The future is already here.