Reshmi AR

In India, 21 of the 29 States are under the control of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has taken the electoral game to a different level altogether. No matter which state goes to polls, Modi weaves his magic to woo voters and ensure the party gets its due mileage in the elections. You have to give it to Modi for BJP's omnipresence in most parts of the country. His poll strategies more often than not work and how! Only this time it didn't work for Karnataka. To say Modi's plan went awry would be to understate it. Probably, the BJP was way too complacent about its political networking and was presumably smug about its mastery in poaching legislators from rival camps to get the numbers right. It's worth recalling here what the ruling party at the Centre did in Bihar to seize power. The BJP snapped up a member from the coalition to gain control of the state. While this may have gone unnoticed, what happened in Karnataka was shameful to say the least. The game of horse-trading had reached its pinnacle! There's no doubt Modi wove his spell on the Kannadigas which ensured the party won more seats than Congress or the JD(S). However, what followed after it fell short of majority had all the commercial elements of a political potboiler.

It all began with Congress reaching out to a regional party (JD-S) for coalition. JD(S) too on its part showed little hesitancy in accepting the Congress offer although both its party supremo HD Deve Gowda and his son and chief ministerial candidate Kumaraswamy, had ruled out striking any ties with outside parties before elections. In fact, soon after the Congress and JD(S) joined hands, a video of Kumaraswamy's TV interview went viral in which he's heard saying: "We would rather sit in the Opposition than forge an alliance with another party." So much for all the tall claims, yeah?

When BJP's chief ministerial aspirant Yeddyurappa submitted his plea to the Governor saying he would form the government without having the required numbers, Vajubhai Vala readily accepted. However, the drama did not end there. What followed was a game of hide and seek but not before a midnight session of the Supreme Court Judges who heard a Congress plea against BJP forming the government. In fact, the entire country stayed up all night to keep a close watch on the political developments. The Apex Court heard the JD(S)-Congress plea challenging Karnataka Governor Vajubhai R Vala's decision to administer oath to BJP's BS Yeddyurappa. The bench comprised Justices Ashok Bhushan, SA Bobde and AK Sikri. In this marathon hearing senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi tried his best to persuade the SC bench to rule in his party's favour calling the entire process unconstitutional.

After hearing the petition, Justice Sikri said: "After hearing the parties, we feel that it is necessary to produce the letters dated May 15 and May 16 which are mentioned in the Governor’s letter. This court is not passing any order staying the oath-taking ceremony. In case he takes oath, it is subjected to the outcome of this petition."

Soon after, Abhishek Singhvi tweeted thus..

Notices were issued to Yeddyurappa and Karnataka stating that the letter be produced by 10:30 am on Friday when the case will be taken up again. Yeddyurappa's swearing-in is also subject to the outcome of the petition, it said.

And P Chidambaram had a golden word of advice for Yeddy

Yeddyurappa went ahead and took oath as the 29th chief minister of Karnataka amid protests from the Congress and JD(S) leaders in front of the Gandhi Statue at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. They were calling the Governor's decision to swear in Yeddy without a majority, 'unprecedented and unconstitutional.'

On the other hand, Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi were at loggerheads on Twitter.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi called it a mockery of the constitution.

And this is how BJP National President Amit Shah countered Rahul's attack...

Meanwhile, Yeddy was given 15 days' time to prove his majority. It was then that all hell broke loose. The country witnessed something nobody could imagine. While Kumaraswamy claimed that BJP had reached out to his MLAs offering them 100 crores to switch their loyalties, JDS and Congress came up with a strategy to prevent them from being poached by BJP. The dirty game of politics in India was being telecast live as Congress and JD(S) ferried their MLAs to a resort on the outskirts of the city (Eagleton) and a few more were put up in luxury hotels in Hyderabad. This perhaps was the most shameful thing for not just BJP whose moral values were being questioned. On the other hand, it also reflected the loose moral standards of Indian politicians who could sell themselves for a stash of cash and a plum post. The way they had to be transported to an undisclosed location in a hurry like a herd of sheep, well what can be said about that? On the one hand, it was evident that BJP was willing to shell out a few more crores to gather the majority numbers. On the other, Congress-JD(S) MLAs' ethics were being questioned. Why should they have to be forcibly hidden in a place to ensure they remained with the party? Isn't it their moral right to stay true to the party which won them votes? That's a story for another day any way!

Now back to the Karnataka drama...BJP which thought it had enough time on his hands to come up with ways to woo members from the opposition parties, received a jolt when the Supreme Court ordered a floor test in the Karnataka Assembly the very next day. At that very minute, two topics were trending on social media. One, Yeddy expressing confidence of winning the litmus test and on the other, curious cases of missing MLAs from JD(S) and Congress!

However, on the D-Day that spelt doom for the BJP much to the shock of everybody BS Yeddyurappa resigned merely 55 hours after taking oath as the head of state making way for Kumaraswamy backed by Congress!

The moral of the story or rather a lesson that BJP learnt here was that it cannot take any election frivolously. Till Karnataka happened, Modi's second term was certain. But no

w, with the party losing its sheen on the credibility factor, the BJP needs to start from the scratch to build its image. Remember how the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate (Modi) had played the anti-corruption card before elections to woo voters? Now, with reports of his party resorting to horse trading to seize power in Karnataka, fingers seem to be pointing at the party's ethics. This is not to say that the JD(s) or Congress can take the high moral ground in terms of ethics and political morality. All of them stand tarred by the same brush.

The Karnataka episode also put the spotlight on the credibility of governors. Political circles have been abuzz with talk that Vajubhai Vala has joined the ranks of partisan minions of the high command, who bend rules and bring disrepute to the system. After the Karnataka drama, governors are being seen as being puppets in the hands of their masters at the Centre when their primary responsibility must be to remain neutral under all circumstances. With politics turning into a murky business, corruption is rampant. What's worse is that it's an open secret and nobody seems to have any remorse about being venal. Politics in India today has earned that dubious distinction, unfortunately.

The Karnataka elections, being dubbed as the most controversial episode will go down in democratic history as one of the forgettable chapters. If you thought the decks have been cleared for Kumaraswamy to take oath and the scene looks all hunky dory now, wait till the Congress-JD(S) honeymoon period gets over. The internal bickering has already begun over sharing portfolios for the members of both the parties. Like they say, the game has only just begun.

The latest we hear is BS Yeddyurappa writting to the Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat seeking serious action on what he claims 'grave irregularities' in the conduct of Assmebly polls in Karnataka.

So what if the Congress-JD(S) combine managed to keep the BJP out of power in the Kannada state, the battle to stake claim over the Southern state is far from over.