Lessons learnt and unlearnt!
A new political horizon seems opening in India at the moment.
It is the outcome of the election verdict and the immediate developments.!
The Karnataka Assembly election results surprised everyone concerned.
There are many stake-holders, so to say. Of course it is another matter that stake -holders also had their own separate agendas! Who won and who lost, the strategies and their own faces? There will be long drawn out debates in the days and months, why even to the last minutes of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections! That is the importance and the impact of this one assembly elections!
The hung Assembly led to some irrational political action. The Governor called the single largest party, while the combined Congress and JD(S) parties commanded a majority. The Governor followed precedents but there were many contradictions. What the Centre did in states like Goa, Manipur this time didn’t do in Karnataka.
So there was a hue and cry and this led to the Congress approaching the Supreme Court and through an all-night hearing, this in itself was somewhat unusual and the apex court gave a verdict that stunned the ruling combine at the Centre.
The Governor’s generous time of 15 long days was cut short by the apex court and reduced to just 24 hours! Thus the Supreme Court had set a new precedent, one hope that would now become a standard in the much abused horse trading that have unfortunately come a standard practice till now. So, in a way this verdict has more than one implication.
First, the Governors’ rather arbitrary exercise in the name of so many arguments would now become a thing of the past and might set a new restraint in the exercise of Constitutional powers by high Constitutional authorities.
Why, the coming into existence of the Congress-JD(S) government, whatever be the nature and duration of the government has now led to ask some serious questions for the coming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his party president are now open to criticism for the many other unsavoury speeches and comments and controversies during the one most keenly contested state elections. The Karnataka election was perhaps the last one before the next general election in 2019 and the one that had upset the calculations of the BJP regime in Delhi.
Also the way the Governor’s planned or natural selection of a Chief Minister went the way it did the Opposition parties for the first time, it seems, have got a rare opportunity to come together in their ambitious attempt to form a federal front to take on the much-stronger and also in a way much-feared strength of the BJP party.
How would the Opposition parties and their leaders conduct themselves from now onwards is the one subject on which the political debate might turn on. How, also, the critical question, whether Rahul Gandhi, as the formal president of the Congress party could lead the debate or some other regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), Mayawati and Akilesh Yadav, Sharad Pawar and some dark horse even!
Politics is both a power struggle as well as a principle-based belief system. In India politics still now and more so right now is seen as a power-grab and any means is justified.
The time has come, the Karnataka verdict gives us a warning that politics has to be pursued with some restraint, and Constitution has to be scrupulously followed.
Right now, how far we are from the observation of Constitutionals propriety? This has to be examined by the incumbent government? There are very clear indications for anxiety.
Already some uncomfortable words and observations had been made both by the ruling party and also the Opposition. The very words and observations and also the way the government has conducted in the Karnataka affairs give room for much anxiety. The famous political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes(1588-1679) had called political power and man’s instinct is that political power struggle is “solitary, poor, nasty and shorter”.
Politicians, please read these words carefully. Don’t rush and turn the established principles, know the Greek and Roman traditions, the rule of law etc.
You can’t violate the time-honoured traditions and history. Julius Caesar violated the code of Command and crossed the Rubican and the rest is history.
Now, coming to the current realities on the ground, the whole exercise in government formation to selecting the ministers and their portfolios are all small matters as far as the impact on the whole country is concerned.
As one expert, Sanjay Kumar, director of Centre for the study of developing societies (CSDS) the next big thing is all about how this state election would upon the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and also the role of the Congress party.
Another impact, though the expert didn’t talk much about it is the likely shape of the federal front. This is the most challenging task of all two have the genius for leadership and a sort of vision and even a coherent ideology that would bind the Opposition parties.
In India, unfortunately, according to my thinking and study of issues there is no thought whatever at the top leadership levels across all the major parties as to the role of Opposition in a democracy like ours. We are not China or Russia, we are a sort of Western democracies for all of which the role of Opposition is well defined and well-understood.
Here individual ambitions and egos seem to be the only driven forces. Parliamentary democracy is not well-understood here. After Pandit Nehru no big leader seems to have spoken about it. Here, some points only.
Who would be the next Prime Minister if the Opposition wins?
Rahul Gandhi said he would be if his party wins. There are not takers for this claim right now. Given the new dimensions of the new political landscape it could be many others too with much more talents and superior wisdom of experience and acceptance.
Any other leader, be it Sharad Pawar or Chandra Babe Naidu, why, even Mamata Banerjee or K.Chandrashekar Rao, Mayawati are acceptable if the current scenario is taken into account.
So, individual ambitions and egos have to be given a goby and every player has to restrain his or her ambitions and see first that a federal front really emerges as a coherent goal.
Also, an ideology and vision document is also crucial.
You can’t have your pet projects, separate state or regional autonomy etc. in such a new challenging situation. Of course, the front has to be anti-Hindutva, religious polarisation has to be ruled out, or new caste equations strengthened. To put it short, we have to subscribe to a liberal democracy, secularism and a sort of autonomy for regional parties and at the same time a wholesome Indian unity based on tolerance, social harmony and an equal and egalitarian society and polity.
Now, it is time for the aspirants to come out with their own positive contributions.
As for the Congress party which I know somewhat well from the Delhi angle, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have to change their ways. They must be accessible and also more modesty, how to handle the new set of players on the national front would their biggest challenge.