Will BS Yeddyurappa be the Kalyan Singh or Jagdambika Pal of Karnataka?
Could Karnataka work for anti-BJP forces the way UP worked for the saffron clan? The similarities are hard to miss: a hung house, arch-rivals burying the hatchet, a contested gubernatorial decision, and the matter taken to court amid allegations of sheep-stealing.Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 18, 2018 07:16 IST
Hung assemblies do not easily produce governments. It’s a process in which the rough and the ready carry the day. Often with the help of friendly governors, and legislators willing to trade loyalties.
No matter who triumphs in the ongoing tussle in Karnataka, the developments there could have far-reaching consequences across India. Alleged gubernatorial misdemeanours have historically evoked the ire of regional parties. There is already a churning in the South and in the North.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has exited the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), making the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) “step-motherly” treatment of Andhra Pradesh an issue of Telugu pride.
A Janata Dal (Secular) ally in Karnataka, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is also stitching together a partnership with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s (TRS) K Chandrasekhar Rao is working on a federal front in tandem with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Read these moves in conjunction with the southern line-up against the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission. Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu share apprehensions of losing revenue to backward states despite better economic and population control records.
As a case study, the political ferment that has engulfed Karnataka has parallels in Uttar Pradesh in 1998. Kalyan Singh was the chief minister in Lucknow and IK Gujral the United Front’s prime minister in Delhi.
The Kalyan Singh government, conceived in a hung assembly, rested on support from defectors from across the anti-BJP spectrum. The turncoats escaped the anti-defection law with Kesari Nath Tripathi seemingly acting more like a BJP man than the speaker of the assembly. Rampant poaching appeared to take place when Mayawati withdrew support to Kalyan Singh after taking her six-month turn as chief minister in the March 1997 rotational power-sharing arrangement.
The efflux from the SP, the BSP and the Congress helped Kalyan prove a majority amid unprecedented violence in the House in October. He even survived Governor Romesh Bhandari’s recommendation of President’s Rule. The Gujral regime didn’t pursue the matter after the proposal didn’t pass muster with President KR Narayanan.
The jumbo 98-strong Kalyan ministry was proof of the perks of defection. Very much part of it was a breakaway Congress faction, called Loktantrik Congress and led by Naresh Aggarwal and Jagdambika Pal. It later played the Trojan horse.
The arrangement was jerry-built and could be shaken with the touch of a porcupine’s quill. The Loktantrik Congress dealt a sledgehammer blow on February 21, 1998 with the backing of the SP and BSP. The Governor dismissed Kalyan Singh, swearing in Jagdambika Pal as CM late in the night.
There was spontaneous outrage against Bhandari’s decision. Of all the people, Atal Bihari Vajpayee went on a fast-unto-death against the CM from a faction with just 21 members in the 425-strong assembly. What transpired the next morning is now history. The high court restored Kalyan Singh and removed Pal as CM in less than 24 hours.
In the final analysis, the UP events catalysed regroupings in the South that catapulted Vajpayee to power at the Centre in 1998. A prized new ally for him at the time was the TDP’s Naidu, who was then the United Front convener. “The people of my state want Atal-ji as PM. I must partake of that goodwill,” he told me in confidence, citing as proof protests against the UP fiasco on the streets of Secunderabad.
Could Karnataka work for anti-BJP forces the way UP worked for the saffron clan? The similarities are hard to miss: a hung house, arch-rivals burying the hatchet, a contested gubernatorial decision, and the matter taken to court amid allegations of sheep-stealing.
Pal and Aggarwal are now with the BJP. Is history repeating itself as tragedy or comedy?