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Murdering Democracy

Murdering Democracy

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”- is an oft-quoted line from William Shakespeare’s immortal play ‘Hamlet’. How true this is for India today when the political situation is not merely rotten but the stench and fumes, which emanate from this rot, can choke to death the strongest of persons.

That Democracy in India is being murdered slowly and systematically in the recent past, was never in doubt! The events of this past week however, have made it blatantly clear that the fascist forces in the country will stop at nothing to achieve their lust for power and to destroy the cherished values of democracy, which embodied the spirit, and idea of India.

The nation and in fact the whole world is very appalled at what is happening in India today and particularly with abysmal depths where corruption is concerned. The elections to the Karnataka State Assembly were always expected to be a watershed moment in the history of the country. The outgoing Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah of the Congress Party had done a creditable job at the helm; besides he was the first CM of Karnataka in forty years, to complete his term in the top position. By all standards, he and his party were expected to romp home, despite the fact that Karnataka over the years has made anti-incumbency its flagstaff and has been consistent in voting out the ruling party. Siddaramaiah however in the final run had to contend with the 3Ms of the BJP: Money, Muscle and Manipulations- all three personified in the three who led the onslaught Modi, Amit Shah and their CM candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa.

In the end, as some had forecast, it was a hung assembly. The BJP won 104 of the 222 Seats; the Congress 78 and the Janata Dal (Secular) 37; two other seats went to two other parties and one to an independent. The Congress and the JDS in record time staked their claim to form the Government saying that they have 117 members on board. The BJP also staked their claim despite not having the required numbers. Significantly, the Congress polled more than 38% of the vote share and together with the JDS (18.3%) totaled more than 56% of the vote share, which was way ahead of the 36% polled by the BJP.

In keeping with the recently ‘established convention’ by the BJP Governors in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, the most obvious thing for the Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala to have done was to invite the JDS- Congress combine to prove their strength on the floor of the House. One needs to look at pure facts: in March 2017, in the Goa Assembly elections with a house strength of 40, the Congress one 17 and the BJP won 12; the Governor invited the BJP in a post poll coalition (BJP+MGP+GFP) to form the Government. The same month (March 2017) for the Manipur elections (with an Assembly strength of 60) the Congress won 28 and the BJP won 21; yet the Governor invited the BJP to form the Government in a post poll coalition (an independent MLA was also detained at Imphal Airport through security agencies & handed over to BJP). In Meghalaya in March this year (Assembly strength 60), the BJP won just two seats in comparison to the Congress’ 21 seats yet the partisan Governor invites them in a post poll coalition (NPEP+UDP+PDF+HSDPDP) to form the Government.

Whereas in Karnataka today despite a post poll coalition of the Congress and JDS with numbers surpassing the half way mark, the Governor threw all Constitutional propriety to the wind, proved to be extremely partisan and in very surreptiously at nine pm on May 16 invited Yeddyurappa to be sworn in the next morning at nine and was given fifteen days’ time to prove his majority on the floor of the house. Vala’s contention was that the BJP was the single largest party; strangely, he did not think it appropriate to go by the precedence of his fellow Governors who did things differently. Vala is cast in the RSS mold, was the founder of the Jan Sangh in Gujarat and so in no way could he displease Modi and top brass of the BJP.

Providing fifteen days to prove one’s majority was obviously a blatant invitation to ‘horse-trading’; given the fact that it has within its ranks some of the most corrupt men of the country and many with criminal backgrounds, it was obvious that the BJP would do everything (by hook or by crook) to buy up MLAs who are not in their fold. They have already begun working overtime on this.

Fortunately, the Congress and the JDS combine were also swift to act. The moment the Governor gave the letter of invitation to Yeddyurappa to be sworn in as CM, the Congress-JDS through a battery of eminent lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court to stay the swearing-in. A three –member bench in a special post-midnight session heard both sides of the arguments. Whilst they did not stay the swearing in, the judges did make several adverse comments on the controversial role of the Governor. Strangely enough, the honorable judges did not think it necessary to cite the precedence of the Goa Assembly elections of 2017, in which the Supreme Court in response to a petition had permitted the BJP who had lesser members than the Congress, to form a coalition after elections and then seek their strength in the house.

The Supreme Court ordered that a floor test be conducted on May 19 at 4.00 pm in the Karnataka Assembly for Yeddyurappa to prove his majority, clearly stating that he could not take any major decision before this floor test. Apparently, Yeddyurappa even began transferring some Police officials in total violation of the orders of the highest court of the land. Besides, the BJP was desperate to nominate an Anglo-Indian MLA to the Assembly, which was flatly denied by the Court.

The BJP appointed KG Bopaiah, a hard-core RSS member, as protem Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly! Bopaiah’s track record is not one of fair play or objectivity. In 2011, the Supreme Court had pulled him up for his partisan role in the illegal disqualification of rebel BJP MLAs.  Still, it was just impossible for the BJP to succeed. For once, the Muscle, Money and Manipulations of the BJP could not triumph. After much drama, Yeddyurappa resigned without taking the floor test. Had the designs of BJP triumphed on May 19, it would have spelled not just the murder of democracy but the death of the spirit and idea of India.

The ordinary Indian citizen is aghast and pained at what the BJP/RSS has done to the country in a span of just four years. One can only hope and pray in the words of our Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore,

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

(The writer is a human rights activist; contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com)

(Published on 21st May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 21)