Encouraged by the political developments in Karnataka where the governor invited the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a government following the provincial elections on 12 May 2018, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader of the opposition in Bihar, Tejaswi Yadav, rushed to the governor to demand that he should also be invited to lead the government in Bihar.
Tejaswi’s obvious logic was that if a party could be called upon to constitute a government just because it had the largest number of elected members in the Vidhan Sabha, his party, the RJD, too had the largest number in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha.
The Biharis and the Governor must have laughed at Tejaswi and at his weird moves suggested most probably by his political strategists.
Tejaswi acted as if the public didn’t know that the requirement to form a government in Bihar was support of 122 legislators. With no imminent political crisis, he had only 111 legislators including all his alliance partners: 27 of the Congress, three of the CPI-ML and one of the Hindustan Awam Morcha. The number of the RJD legislators which stood at 80 wasn’t enough.
The non-BJP political parties made a big deal out of the governor of Karnataka inviting the BJP to form the government. To a non-partisan observer also, that was the best course to follow. With 104 MLAs on its side, the BJP was only 8 seats behind a clear majority. The governor would have committed a grievous error if he had invited the Congress Party and the JD(S) to put together a government first.
The two parties had entered into a post-election alliance to prevent the BJP from taking over the reins of the Karnataka administration. During the election campaign, the platforms of the Congress and the JD(S) were separate and different. Rahul Gandhi, the president of the Congress, was taunting at and characterizing the JD(S) as “a member of the Sangh Parivar.” On the other hand, H D Deve Gowda, the patriarch of the JD(S) was attacking Rahul Gandhi, the Karnataka Chief Minister and their party, the Congress.
The winning streak of the BJP at the Karnataka assembly elections shouldn’t have left any one in doubt about which party was at the commanding height. Despite the forecasts of the media/pollsters to the contrary, the BJP at one point was leading in 120 constituencies; its vote share improved and the number of seats jumped from 40 to 104.
The BJP received a massive mandate which unfortunately couldn’t be translated into the required number of seats. In as many as 13 constituencies, the BJP lost with a tiny margin that was less than the NOTA (None-of- the- Above) votes.
On the other hand, a clear rejection of the ruling Congress party was obvious from the fact that their number of seats went down from 122 to less than 78 and more than half of their ministers were defeated in their constituencies. Their sitting Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, lost in one of the two constituencies he contested.
As it turned out, the JD(S) leader, Kumaraswami, was sponsored by the Congress as the Chief Ministerial candidate of the non-BJP coalition. The opinion expressed in the election was certainly not for seating the JD(S) at the Chief Minister's position. The JD(S) lost in 180 Assembly segments out of a total of 218 it had contested. It forfeited deposits at 147 places and secured the third rank with only 38 seats (after the BJP and the Congress).
Installation of a JD(S)-led government in Karnataka, therefore, appeared to be in contravention of all democratic principles and spirit. In politics, however, everything or anything could happen, if the players were determined to discard all norms and values.
In many parliamentary democratic countries like Canada, for instance, the parties with lesser number of elected members sometimes endorse the party with larger number of representatives to go ahead and form the government. The overall financial or administrative interests of the province or those of the country are priorities in their mind. Therefore, they cooperate. They don’t like to be seen as obstructionists, because they feel they might displease their constituents. They avoid premature dissolution of elected assemblies, midterm elections or federal intervention.
In the case of Karnataka, it was a Congress-designed machination to keep the BJP out of power. Being the oldest political party threatened with extinction, the Congress party doesn’t seem to be ready to learn from its blunders and start anew. Going by history, then, its honeymoon with the JD(S) will not last longer. Political adversaries until recently, the overbearing Congress will become intolerable to the JD(S). Already there are dissension and discomfort in the ranks of both the parties.
In this entire political drama, the non-BJP parties and politicians have successfully masked their dynastic ambition and ideological similarities or dissimilarities.
Sonia Gandhi preserved and protected the position of the Congress Chief to be smoothly handed over to her son, Rahul Gandhi. Overnight he became an undisputed Prime Ministerial candidate.
Similarly, Lalu installed his son on a position in the RJD so that in any future arrangement against the BJP-JD(U) alliance, he is the only Chief Ministerial candidate. Without debate or competition, Tejaswi became the leader of the opposition on the floor of the Bihar legislative assembly: Absolute ‘reservation’ for the family in the leadership positions of a party filled with courtiers and sycophants.
Along the same lines, 85-year old former Chief Minister of Karnataka and Prime Minister, H D Deve Gowda saw to it that the transfer of power to his son within his party, JD(S) and eventual elevation as the CM was unquestioned and seamless.
Neither Tejaswi nor Kumaraswamy would mention that their fathers’ parties, along with the BJP, owed their origin to the seminal Janata Party born out of the national Emergency (1975-77) imposed by the Indira Congress.
Presentation of an alternative to the Congress and its culture was, therefore, their avowed common goal, in service to the people and the nation. Instead, they turned into dynasts themselves serving their own selfish interests.
This has caused irreparable harm to the nation and to the national character. That has to be reversed.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.