People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 42

October 17, 2010




Political Opportunism at Its Worst in Karnataka


THE BJP’s Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka has resorted to brazen expressions of political opportunism by adopting worst forms of anti-democratic and unconstitutional methods to remain in office.  The BJP’s much tom-tomed foray into South India with the formation of this government in May 2008 has exposed unprecedented levels of corruption and opportunism.  Riding a sympathy generated by the refusal of its then ally – the JD (S) – to respect a power sharing agreement, the BJP won 110 seats in a 224-member assembly.  In its first act of corrupt opportunism – operation lotus – the BJP lured some independents and some JD (S) and Congress MLAs to resign and contest as BJP candidates, in order to make up the numbers for a comfortable majority.  Accommodating these members in the cabinet set in motion problems within the BJP itself, sowing the seeds of instability. 


Quite apart from the clout exercised by the Reddy Brothers, of the infamous illegal mining scam, over the government, its performance in the last 28 months has been mired in charges of corruption.  Three ministers were forced to resign on corruption charges.  Another resigned when allegations of moral turpitude surfaced with allegations of attempt to sexually molest the wife of one of his close friends.  The chief minister himself faces allegations of denotifying government land for his family members.  The housing minister’s son was arrested last month for allegedly bribing a witness in the investigations of a compensation scam. 


The chief minister’s confrontation with the Reddy Brothers over various issues concerning the appointment of officers in the Bellary district led to a group of 54 MLAs demanding a change of the chief minister in 2009.  This threat was overcome by making the demanded unsavoury compromises. The Yeddyurappa government suffered a huge loss of face and credibility  when the Lokayukta, a retired Supreme Court Judge, resigned over charges of non-cooperation from the state government particularly  over the investigations of allegations of illegal mining.  The chief minister himself on July 10, 2010 told the state assembly that in the past seven years, more than 30 million tones of iron-ore was illegally exported from the state.  At a conservative price of $ 150 per tonne, these would value a staggering Rs 22,500 crore or more. 


The reshuffling of the cabinet and the deceitful compromises made to somehow remain in power  accompanied by  condoning the worst instances of corruption led to growing dissatisfaction within the BJP itself, particularly amongst those  who had crossed over  from the JD (S) and the Congress in the first instance.  This culminated in a group of 19 MLAs including five independents to announce their withdrawal of support on October 6, reducing the government to a minority.  Given this, the governor, as per the Supreme Court directions and current parliamentary practice asked the Yeddyurappa government to prove its majority on the floor of the house by October 12. 


The assembly was convened on October 11 to consider the vote of confidence motion moved by the chief minister.  By then it became clear that at least 16 MLAs, including five independents, were not going to vote in support of the government.   In a brazen act of constitutional impropriety, the speaker disqualified these 16 MLAs and barred their entry into the assembly.  This led to some violent confrontations.  In the meanwhile, Yeddyurappa government declared its majority through a voice vote! 


There are three patently undemocratic and unconstitutional acts involved in this episode.  First, disqualification of an MLA can only come after the violation of a party whip.  On this occasion, this could have happened when the BJP MLAs had voted against the party whip.  Disqualification prior to voting, hence, is not tenable.  Secondly, independent MLAs can never be disqualified on this count since, by definition, they are independent.  Thirdly, the majority needs to be established on the floor of the house through a division of vote conducted by the chair.  A voice vote cannot be a substitute.  Such has been the blatant manipulation of democratic practices and parliamentary procedures by the BJP.  At the time of going to the press, we learn that the governor has asked the chief minister to seek another vote of confidence on October 14. Since the High Court has reserved its order on a petition of the disqualified MLAs against speaker’s action, it is likely that the BJP government in Karnataka may gain a vote of confidence.  This, however, will not condone the speaker’s patently illegal action as also the opportunism of the BJP government. 


So much so for a party that claimed to give a model government when it assumed office in May 2008.  If anything, the BJP has shown itself as a party that is willing to throw to the winds all norms of political morality in order to remain in office.  That the BJP functions as the political arm of the RSS and pursues the politics of communal polarisation to convert our modern secular democratic Republic into a rabidly intolerant fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’ is well known. However, this penchant  for the spoils of office, as seen now in Karnataka,  exposes the BJP as the practitioner of the worst form of political opportunism, as well. 


(October 12, 2010)