Karnataka : End of Innocence

Mala Jay

The turn of events after Counting Day in Karnataka has ripped the BJP's mask of morality. The strenuous efforts over the last five years to paint the Congress black and to project the saffron party as the only corruption-free political entity in the country have been exposed in the space of two days.

The allegation made by JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy that 32 newly elected MLAs of his party had been approached by the BJP with offers of Rs 100 crore each as well as ministerial berths has a ring of truth to it.
Not because of JD(S)'s own clean image but because the BJP has carried out an ‘Operation Lotus’ in Karnataka in the past—and Kumar-anna has been prey to it before.

The evidence is there for all to see. Elementary arithmetic shows that with 104 MLAs, a government led by Yeddyurappa will not be able to prove its majority on the floor of a House of 222 (or 220) members. Common sense suggests that either more than half-a dozen newly-elected MLAs must be persuaded to cross-vote or a dozen must be prevailed upon to abstain during voting.

Logically, for this to happen, inducements or threats are required. It's as simple as that. It's called horse-trading in popular political parlance.

Why would a Governor of a State spend precious hours even considering inviting a party leader who clearly lacks the minimum numbers? Would that not be tantamount to encouraging or tacitly endorsing the possibility of horse-trading?

Especially when there is a clear and tangible alternative—a declared alliance of two established parties who have 116 MLAs with them, all of whom have signed affidavits and are willing to parade in person before the distinguished governor.

It is hazardous to attempt to answer those questions without delving into the political journey of Vajubhai Vala and his personal loyalty to the current Prime Minister. Seventeen years ago, when Narendra Modi first became the chief minister of Gujarat he was not a MLA and was required under the Constitution to win an election within six months. In his desperate search for a safe seat, Modi had set his eyes on a constituency in Ahmedabad, but the sitting MLA Haren Pandya refused to quit and make way. It was then that Vajubhai Vala generously offered his Rajkot (West) seat to Modi.

Since then, Vala, now 79, has had a star-blessed political career, presenting 18 budgets as the Finance Minister and being installed as Governor of Karnataka in 2014. Today he is faced with the onerous task of choosing between duty and loyalty.

It would be incorrect to say that in many other ways, too, the scramble for power in Karnataka symbolises the end of the Age of Innocence. Morality in Indian politics has long since been dead and buried.

However, in the case of the BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, there has always been a conscious attempt to denigrate all rivals as utterly corrupt and depraved and to project themselves as the idealistic harbingers of a new era of clean politics and noble deeds.

That delusion of idealism has now been abandoned due to the exigencies of the tricky situation in post-election Karnataka. The methods are similar to operations carried out in Goa, Manipur and elsewhere in recent months, but the same kind of stealth has not been feasible under the glare of public scrutiny in the southern State.

There is no option but to openly cross the threshold of political correctness and to blatantly blur the lines between morally right and morally wrong. Too much is at stake to be coy about it. Power at any cost is the need of the hour in this critical pre-election year.

Students of psychology and statecraft would have noted the mind games played by the BJP as soon as it became clear that the party had won less seats than required to form the next government in Karnataka.
Classic techniques were used to spread disinformation. Even this has been done before, even more aggressively, ever since the 2014 election campaign.

This time, it has not worked as effectively as earlier—mainly because the rival parties have not simply lay down and allowed themselves to be trampled upon.

Instead they have adopted ways to defend themselves and even counter-attack with a skill and dexterity not seen earlier. Demonstrating thereby that unscrupulous methods of grabbing power through deception, insincerity, and abuse of the official machinery, can be countered or at the very least exposed by careful preparation and unified action.

Vol. 50, No.49, June 10 - 16, 2018