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This reflective piece is the second within a week. It comes out of anguish and a search for political relevance in times such as this. It also comes as a response to queries from friends overseas.

  1. Theatre of the Absurd:

The 19th of May 2018 was the culmination of a Theatre of the Absurdin Karnataka, performed at the VidhanaSoudha in Bangalore.In this genre of theatre, conventional dramatic forms are abandoned. In like manner, last week was an enactment by political parties, (“leaders” at the centre and state and a Governor), abandoning all niceties and constitutionalpropriety, in their aggressive march to capture power, at all costs. The 20th of May was a quite Sunday, until my adult sons, began a debate on the week of ‘Natak’ and ‘Tamasha’, which culminated in CM Yedurrappa resigning on the floor of the house. The curtain will open tomorrow for the final act as Mr. H.D. Kumaraswamy and Dr.  Parameshwara of the Congress Party will be sworn in as CM and Dy. CM respectively. Even as senior leaders, representing several parties from Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, West Bengal, have confirmed participation at the swearing in, the BJP high command have issued an order to their MLA’s to stay from the proceedings.

  1. Going beyond the Righteous and the Rascal (R & R):

The older of my two sons, a young media professional and an entrepreneur argued that the vote (my younger son cast) for the Congress candidate vindicated the man known for his unethical, even criminal record. My younger son,currently reading for his PhDargued that no candidate had a clear record.Withno intention of playing referee, I refrained (up to a point), secretly supporting the counter argument of my younger son. The issue at the moment is not one of choosing the ‘righteous’ over the ‘rascal’. Rather it is one of saving democratic structures and the sanctity of the Constitution.

Besides, I argued, let us avoid binary opposites. The righteous and the rascal are embedded in each of us. It is the context that provokes one or the other become dominant. If this is the case then we need an internal system of keeping ourselves falling prey to one ‘R’ or the other.

  1. Governor Valla, batting for the BJP.

Given the on-going IPL, the numbers 38,78 and 104 read a bit like cricket scores; with the team with the highest Net Run Rate making it to the finals. Even that is now decided.In the recently concluded Karnataka Legislative Assembly election, it is significant to note that the Congress had the highest vote share with 38%, the BJP 36% and the Janata Dal-S with 18%. Unfortunately the Congress was unable to convert this into seats in the Assembly. Three cheers for the BJP who strategized to contest in 170 constituencies only and reaping a harvest of 104 seats. That said they still did not make it to the magical number, first past the post.

It was a ‘no-brainer’. Governor Valla knew well that the JD – S and Congress combine had the required number of seats to form Government and yet denied the two colour coalition an opportunity to form Government and prove their legitimacy on the floor of the house. Agreed it would have been ‘neater’, if the Congress and JD’s had formed a Pre poll alliance as a strategy and plan of action, but there is no denying, they had the numbers. Perhaps the coalition, took a leaf out of the BJP strategy and action in Goa and Manipur.

Debates on convention and the legality of the matter on hand was debated and perhaps it continues, even as political parties huddle to scheme and poach. Soli Sorabji, former Attorney General of India, was categorical that the Governor must invite the BJP to form the Government on the basis of being the single largest party.  On the other hand, DorabSopariwala, an Election analyst ( and NDTV key figure for such occasions) supported by Harish Salve, an Indian lawyer who specializes in Constitutional, commercial and taxation law, held that the Governor should fall back on Constitutional propriety. The argument is based on a key indicator; stability of the Government. Does the party or parties staking claim to form Government have what it takes to initiate and sustain a ‘Stable Government’? While the debates continued, my concern was whether or not the Governor would be able and willing to rise above partisan politics. Given his lifelong commitment to the RSS and subsequently BJP, it appeared to be a legitimate concern and I was vindicated by his shocking decisions.

Talking of Governors, the former Governor of West Bengal,Gopal Krishna Gandhi, argues, that while a pre poll alliance would be desirable “a post – poll one is not out of order”. He continues in his article in the Hindu, May 2018, titled “Architecture of the Mandate” “There is nothing in any electoral law or court verdict to say that a post poll alliance is ab initio null, void and to be disregarded”. Gandhi argues, while election and the results is, like mathematics, a precise exercise, “a governor cannot function like a calculator” “His (sic) task is Mathematics plus Ethics”.

The Editorial on the same page makes a scathing critique of Governor Valla’s disregard for all things proper and decent. Returning to the idea and practice of abandonment, the Editorial is forthright in pointing out that Governor Valla “abandoned both propriety and common sense, acting in a politically partisan manner, unbecoming of his office”.

  1. They also serve who only stand and wait

Borrowing from John Miltons Sonnet “when I consider how my light is spent”, we the peoples of India must hold before our politicians the life of the poet who lost his physical sight when he dictated the lines. Milton was making a faith statement; in spite of his disability he has a place in God’s world.

Going by the political practice of the BJP; be it in Goa, Meghalaya, Manipur and during the recent election campaign in Karnataka, the party seems to run on the dictum of power at all costs. The horse trading during the 12 hours (after the JDS and Congress were denied) and the attempts (BJP) atbuying up of MLA’s, willing to spend up to a sum of 800 crores (100 crores each for 8 MLA’s), is a case in point. Even as the BJP is ‘hell bent’ on capturing power and ruling the State (and country eventually), the Congress and JDS seem to have united on No BJP at all costs.  Is the Congress doing what the BJP did in Goa, Meghalaya and Manipur? Yes. A reminder to readers: In the elections in Goa, Meghalaya and Manipur the Congress had the largest number of seats but did not make it to ‘first past the post’. Aggressive bargaining and gobbling up of candidates, representing regional parties and independents, enabled the BJP to form the Government in all three states. So is the Congress doing the same in Karnataka. Yes. However in my opinion it is not brought on by a power at all costsbutNo BJP at all costs.

The inscription on our very grand VidhanaSoudha, in Bangalore, reads “Government work is God’s Work”. While this maybe a debate for another time, it sparks a couple of thoughts. The first is one of a vocation;Governance with equity as a key indicator can and should be considered a vocation. Secondly, politics is not all about ‘reaching for power’. As the editorial concludes “power is only one of the means of politics, not one of its ends”. Not ‘standing’ but sitting in the opposition is a very crucial way of ensuring checks and balances; that democratic principles are upheld and the peoples are governed with equity.

  1. Call for rainbow coalition

This then is the lesson. This then was the attempt of CM Siddaramaiah when he laid emphasis on AHINDA, a coalition of dalits, religious minorities and backwards. That this card did not return him and the Congress to power, cannot dilute the value of a genuine coalition politics.

Prof. M. Assadi, newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the Raichur University and a political scientist is confounded with the results. Having travelled extensively from Gulbarga, to South Kanara and Mysore, several times in the recent past, he is categorical that there was no anti-incumbency factor nor a Modi hype. In his article in the Indian Express he writes that it is a Paradox. He argues that the voters enjoyed populist programs but did not participate in the “Politics of marginality”. With the dalit community split almost down the middle, Maidgas supporting the BJP and the Congress leadership in a quandary as to which leader they support in the run up for CM, the polity seemed disunited and confused. On the other hand, the vote share of Congress 38% and 18% of JDS reflects the fact that the polity comprising 56% is categorically saying No to a communal and divisive politics.While the BJP may have 104 seats, a vast majority of Karnataka have not voted for them.

It would be harsh and premature to dismiss the dalit community alone as being disunited. That they are the most vulnerable, ignored and hence easily manipulated would be a sharper analysis.Archana Nathan, in her Ground Report, titled Split between left and Right, which way will Karnataka’s Dalits Vote, lucidly points out how the BJP have been wooing the Madigas from 2000.Some would argue this is a classic case of the BJP preying on the vulnerable. That said it was the Congress which created the platform, by ignoring the repeated plea of the Madiga community for representation. Archana Nathan quotes Ms. A. Arolikar of the MadigaMisalateHorateSamithi, who sums up the situation. “What they are saying indirectly is that the community does not have the monetary capability or the political acumen required to stand in an election and win”.

It is an in-depth analysis and an undying commitment to uphold the rule of law and other fundamental rights in the Constitution of India that can ensurea secular and democratic governance.

  1. For times such as this:

I am a very proud Bangalorean and for many reasons. However for one reason I hang my head in shame. We always have a low turnout at elections. This year around, it was about 40% only.Come Election Day, we sleep in or use the day to catch up with friends or family. All needed. However, ‘for times such as this’, we must respond.

Thanks to the genius of the architect and framers of the Constitution and the timely intervention of the Supreme Court, a crisis was averted but not before revealing the fangs of a collective, lusting for power and prepared to go the distance and beyond. While I normally refrain from indulging in anything militaristic, I would say a battle has been won (maybe) but how do we prepare for the next – the General Elections 2019. The war has many battles.

Even as I conclude this piece, HD Kumaraswamy is invoking the blessings of the divine and every TV news channel is beaming information of police brutality in Tuticorn, South India resulting in the death of 12 persons. This is a decision and emphatic action of a State quelling dissent with a murderous intent. Dissent as democratic virtue and action against the Sterlite Copper plant, a unit of the Vedanta(Britan). As a result of the three month long struggle, against the pollution of ground water and quality of air, caused by the Sterlite Copper plant, the state machinery have put down with a murderous hand yet another democratic action.Yes democracy is in peril and so is a very beleaguered and fragile earth.

My journey is to initiate where necessary and enhance where it exists peoples movements with a singular agenda and a cohesive slogan save Democracy save theConstitution. Of this I am convinced; the Politicians cannot do this, unless they ‘turn around’.

 

David Selvaraj, Executive Trustee, Visthar

22nd May, 2018

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