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Practicing Democracy


There has been all round condemnation of the events in Karnataka that led to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government. This should, however, be seen in the proper perspective – in many countries of the world, a similar struggle for power would have lasted years and led to innumerable deaths and destruction. A democratic system, however misutilised, ensures transfer of power in a bloodless and peaceful manner. The losers pick themselves up and get back to politicking. Indians should be thankful for having evolved to such a level of civilised behaviour. This aspect should be kept in mind while criticising the politicians and the system. In the case of Karnataka, the matter could have been resolved sooner and more efficiently in the Assembly had the parties in power not pushed the conventions to the limit. In the process, though, the Speaker’s powers were further highlighted. It was seen that there were limitations to the ability of the Supreme Court and Governor to intervene as long as the House was in session. Eventually, the Speaker effectively played his role and steered the situation to its logical conclusion. In hindsight, the trust reposed in him was more than justified. This incident will establish the convention further for Speakers to be as impartial as possible, as that leads to a speedier resolution of such impasses. The Congress- JD(S) coalition was unstable from the beginning, as the price of handing over the Chief Ministership to the smaller party was too high. The manner in which governments are run these days leaves too much power in the CM’s hands, making even Cabinet colleagues feel disempowered, what to talk of the legislators. (This is being experienced even in states where parties have overwhelming majorities, including Uttarakhand.) So, while the largest party was in the opposition, the next largest was playing second fiddle to the party in third position. How long could such asymmetry last, particularly after the crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections? While critics are accusing the BJP of using money power to lure away the rebels who eventually brought down the government, one can only ask why they were dissatisfied in the first place to the extent of surrendering even their membership of the House. Some issues will be taken to the courts, of course, while a BJP government is sworn-in. These will involve the rebels, who will – if their resignations are accepted – have to face the people’s verdict within six months. This should be considered final and the courts should let common sense prevail by accepting the resignations as valid from the day they were submitted. That is the basic sacrifice expected from a legislator if he or she wishes to withdraw support to a government. The Speaker has a role to play in this and he should continue in the spirit of the fine example he finally set. The Congress will suffer but democracy will prevail.