It started as a crisis but its turned into farce. Even Feydeau, the master of the genre, could not have created better. But the sad part is this farce is the truth.
The struggle between the BJP and the JD(S) for the chief ministership of Karnataka epitomises all that is despicable about Indian politics: the unabashed quest for power devoid of principle, a willingness to deceive if not lie, a capacity to bear humiliation in the hope you will get the top job and total disregard for the people in whose name this battle is being waged.
Twenty months ago the BJP and the JD(S) forged an alliance to form the government with the condition that on 3 October 2007, the chief ministership would change hands. It was simple and straightforward. But Chief Minister Kumaraswamy — and his father, Deve Gowda — have used every ruse to wriggle out, whilst the BJP, desperate to succeed and pathetic in the hope that it will, has put up with humiliation and insult. Neither has emerged with honour. Both are compromised.
The JD(S) explanations for not handing over would make amusing reading were they not serious. “It’s true that we agreed to share power for 20 months each,” says Kumaraswamy, “but why did the BJP engage in the power transfer debate at least 10 months before the deadline for it?” Referring to Janardhan Reddy’s allegation that he took bribes, made in June 2006 and at the time laughed off, the CM now says: “The mutual trust between the parties ceased to exist. Power transfer is not child’s play. The BJP never created a cordial atmosphere for such an exercise to happen.” Of course, none of this mattered during the 20 months of his term.
If these reasons are not sufficient, Deve Gowda has offered more structural explanations. The handover of power can’t be decided by the CM, he says, disregarding the fact that its acquisition happened at the CM’s level. Now the party leadership (i.e. himself) has to decide.
The BJP’s trustworthiness is questioned. “I can’t be sure the BJP will protect the interests of 5.5 crore people in the state,” says the son. “They may rake up controversial issues.” If you point out this didn’t matter when Kumaraswamy sought the BJP’s support, the JD(S) Secretary General says that’s why the father disapproved of the alliance! Since then Deve Gowda has come around whilst his son has turned sceptical!
In fact, so blatant is the son’s hunger for office and so open is he to any means of retaining it, Kumaraswamy won’t deny the suspicion he’s hoping the Congress will bail him out. “Politics is nothing but opportunism,” he explains.
Turn now to the BJP. They’ve not just been deceived and misled but sent on a whirling roller-coaster of broken promises and fraudulent explanations. Yet have they responded with self-respect? Have they cared for their dignity? Or even their future prospects in Karnataka? Judge for yourself.
“There will be a transfer of power. There’s no doubt about it,” Venkaiah Naidu maintained till friday. “I have full confidence in Kumaraswamy,” said Yediyurappa, even as Kumaraswamy said exactly the opposite. “We’re still there,” proclaimed Rajiv Pratap Rudy. “We’re waiting.” Which is precisely what the JD(S) wanted.
The most the BJP could bring itself to do was ask its ministers to resign. Their letters were delivered to Kumaraswamy who quietly sat on them. It was a meaningless gesture and the BJP knew as much. What it should have done was go to the Governor and withdraw support. Why did it delay? Because that would have ended all hope of succession. Instead the BJP swallowed its pride and waited. And waited. But Godot didn’t turn up!
The BJP may be sinned against but it’s also been damnably stupid. When rape became inevitable it lay back and accepted it! The JD(S), on the other hand, simply lied. With such politics, is it surprising we despise politicians?