BS Yeddyurappa, the leader of the single largest party in the Karnataka assembly,was sworn in as the CM of the state. Immediately after this, the left intellectuals and opposition parties started the familiar wolf-cry of ‘democracy is being killed’ in Karnataka. For common populace, it’s hard to understand when the democracy is under threat and when it is flourishing? They are hearing this rhetoric since the independence. Still, the apex court of the country opens at midnight to urgently listen to the appeal to ‘protect the democracy’.
According to some people, all of this started after 2014 when democratically elected Modi government came to power. Whosoever these people are, they have a very weak memory. History is always linear with seldom a break point. All of this started six decades ago and not four years ago as these people would like everyone to believe. In the year 1956 on the basis of State Reorganization Commission report, Kerala state came to existence. Assembly Elections were held for the first time in the year 1957. In the 127 member assembly seats, under the leadership of EMS Namboodiripad, the Communist Party won 60 seats in the assembly elections.
Government was formed with the support of five independent MLAs. That was for the first time when anywhere in the world, the Communist Party came to power through democratically elected process. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the then Prime Minister of the country who was widely considered as the crusader of democracy. At that time, President of the Congress party was none other than Indira Gandhi. The Kerala government started taking popular steps for land reform and social reform. The Congress party which was ruling the entire country could not tolerate a single opposition party. First, they tried to break Communist party and then the independent candidates. For this, the Congress launched ‘Muktokan Samarama’ (the freedom struggle). When the Congress party failed to break even a single MLA ,then on July 31, 1959, Article 356 of the Constitution was first (mis)used by the Congress government at the centre to dismiss the Namboodiripad government. Was it the establishment of democracy or killing? After this sacking the democratically elected government became a political game for the Congress party.
This unethical and immoral political game slowed down when the Supreme Court fixed some rules after the Sarkaria Commission’s report. As long as the Congress used to get majority in the Lower House of the Parliament and in the State Assemblies, there was no problem. The moment, non-Congress government started coming to existence, problems emerged. One of the most pressing problems in a multi-party democracy was who to invite to form the government in the case of hung assembly? Single largest party or post-poll alliance formed after elections? Congress party devised a very simple solution for this. According to the Congress party, whatever means helped it to get to the power was the constitutional one.
If the single largest party were to be the Congress, so the rule is that the Governor/ President should give the largest party an opportunity to form the government first. But in case the Congress is not the single largest party or it suffers defeat in elections and later on if it claims to form the government with the coalition of other parties then again it’s the Congress party which should get the opportunity to form the government. Apparently, this was only way to ensure that democracy is not being ‘killed’ and the constitutional values are not trampled.
Now, let us come to the present. Let us assume that whatever the Congress did before the 2014 was constitutionally correct. All the immoral and unethical practices first began from what happened in Goa, then Manipur and after that Meghalaya. The Congress argued that it emerged as the single largest party in these three states. Despite this, the Governor, by not inviting them to form the government, has murdered the democracy and the constitution. Congress also claimed that Narendra Modi has come to power to destroy the democracy. That’s why all these things are happening under his tutelage. From 2017, the Congress was roaming around the country saying that the Sanghi Governors did not invite the single largest party to form the government. Now, when the Governor in Karnataka invited the single largest party to form the government, the same Congress party knocked the doors of Supreme Court at mid-night appealing to prevent the Governor from doing so because if he did so then it would amount to the ‘Murder of the Democracy and the Constitution’.
On the other hand the BJP’s argument is completely opposite. What the Congress was saying till yesterday, BJP is saying today. Morality is relative and ethics are even more so. So it is really hard to see the BJP as the ‘murderer of democracy’ when it is trying to prevent the very people from coming to power who devised every loophole and workaround to subvert the very institutions and norms that they are claiming to be fighting for.
Now let’s turn our attention to the much talked about ‘horse-trading’ practice. As soon as a party accuses another party of trying to buy its MLAs then it already has accepted that their MLAs are ready to sell themselves. For a person up for sale, the buyer hardly matters. His eyes only look for the one who can offer him the largest amount. In such a case, how can it be accepted that the only one side is indulged in buying and selling? In the current assembly of 222 legislators, the leader of the party with 38 MLAs will be the chief minister. A party with 78 MLAs will stand behind it and the party with 104 MLAs party will sit in opposition. So, should we assume that the attempt to make the leader of the party with the lowest number of MLAs as Chief Minister is because of the spirit of sacrifice? Is this the victory of democracy? If the answer is yes, then the definition of democracy would change. There is no fixed rule for a hung assembly, only precedents.
For hung assembly, Supreme Court had suggested a solution but nothing came of it. In the case of Jagadambika Pal in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court had suggested the way for composite votes. Instead of inviting anyone before or after, the House elects its leader and that leader forms the government. This could be a way for the future.