Karnataka lesson: Congress must accept defeat with grace

Indian democracy is facing a bizarre and dangerous political stunt by opposition parties led by Congress after Karnataka Governor Vijubhai Vala late on Wednesday invited BJP, the single-largest party in the new assembly, to form government in the state.

In a move which Indian media termed as ‘Karnataka effect’, Congress in Goa and RJD in Bihar are going to tell governors in their respective states to dismiss the existing governments and invite them to form government since they too had enjoyed the same ‘single-largest party’ status of BJP in Karnataka.

All the 16 Congress lawmakers who won Goa elections last year are going to meet Governor Mridula Sinha on Friday to stake claim to form government. In Bihar, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav will be meeting Governor Satya Pal Malik to discuss government formation on Friday. Similar moves are being planned in Manipur and Meghalaya as well.

Demanding the dismissal of governments which have been legitimately ruling Goa and Bihar for months or even years is a mockery of democracy. Congress should realise this as they are set to observe nationwide ‘Save Democracy Day’ protests on Friday.

Governor Vijubhai Vala was just doing his job. Governors in Indian states have used different ways to break the impasse that follows a fractured mandate. It is a difficult decision as the Constitution does not say much on the rules to be followed when no party gets absolute majority in elections.

Some national panels have suggested ‘single-largest party’ and ‘pre-poll alliance’ as factors that should be considered by governors in case of a hung assembly. In Karnataka, Congress and Janata Dal (S) had no pre-poll alliance. In fact, they were bitter rivals and their rivalry ended only when Congress, knowing that it was losing elections, offered unconditional support and chief minister’s post to JD(S) if it helped them stop BJP from assuming power.

That was an undemocratic act since the mandate was clearly for BJP. As India’s grand old party, Congress should have been generous to give BJP, which almost touched the magic figure for absolute majority, the first chance to prove its majority in the assembly. Instead, it courted a rival party, JD(S), to spoil BJP’s chances of forming a government.

Governor’s decisions are generally respected but Congress challenged Vijubhai Vala’s move to invite Yeddyurappa. The party even forced a post-midnight session in the Supreme Court to hear its petition. It wanted to stop BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa from taking oath as chief minister on Thursday.

After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court decided not to stay the swearing-in ceremony which finally took place at 9 am at a low-key ceremony. This came as a big blow to Congress which was expecting interference from the top court.

The state governor and India’s top court had carefully considered the Karnataka tangle before arriving at their own decision. Congress should have respected their views. But its president Rahul Gandhi (pictured) attacked the judiciary by likening the situation in India to that of Pakistan. He also spoke of the constitution under threat and battle between the governor and legislators.

Congress cannot expect all decisions to go in its favour. When Supreme Court’s doors were opened past midnight on Thursday to hear its case, many party leaders praised it. But when its ruling on Yeddyurappa oath-taking went against the wishes of the party, many attacked it. This is unfair.

JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, aspirant for chief ministership, went a step ahead by terming the governor’s move to invite Yeddyurappa to form government as “Gujarati business” by the trinity from Gujarat state — Governor Vijubhai Vala, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.

He said the trinity think they can start their “Gujarati business” in Karnataka but Kannadigas will not allow it.

Such divisive comments coming from a former chief minister are indeed shocking.

Ideally, Congress and its new-found ally JD(S) could have patiently waited for the trust vote in the assembly. If they were so sure of their numbers, they should have given BJP the first chance to prove their majority. Poaching is ruled out since Congress and JD(S) have bussed their respective new legislators to different resorts.