Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala set a dubious precedent by ignoring the claim of the JD(S)-Congress combine to form the government first and by allowing the BJP 15 days to prove its majority. As pointed out by several jurists and commentators, the decision is different and contradictory to recent decisions by Governors in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya and endorsed by the Supreme Court.
By being so brazen, the Governor and the BJP may have actually done a service. They have dropped the fig-leaf and whatever doubts some people may have harboured about the Prime Minister and the BJP’s democratic credentials, would have disappeared by now.
The only way the BJP can pass the floor test is by luring legislators from other parties to resign, abstain or defect. That the Governor agreed to be a party will remain a blot on Indian democracy. While it remains to be seen if the BJP faces a backlash from Vokkaligas or if the Supreme Court does right the wrong, there are important lessons to be learnt. Only a decisive victory in elections can possibly prevent the BJP from misusing its considerable money power and state agencies into subverting democracy.
Now that the fascist forces have shown their true colours, it is time for the opposition to unite and resist the forces together. The electoral verdict in Karnataka broadly reflects the national mood. First, the country is still polarised between pro-Modi and anti-Modi camps. Secondly, the Modi magic has certainly begun to fade but Narendra Modi remains a key political player. Thirdly, the Congress party under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership is not just battle -ready but the party appears prepared to react faster to emerging political developments.
Last but not the least, Karnataka has opened the gates for unity among anti-BJP and anti-Modi secular and liberal forces. More the opposition is denied a fair chance to form a government, the more will it be determined to fight back. The BJP may call the Congress-JD(S) alliance an opportunistic alliance. But the alliance came up after major national opposition leaders put pressure on JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda to accept the Congress offer to stop the march of the BJP in Karnataka. Leaders like Sitaram Yechury, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi spoke to Gowda to heed the warning signals. There are clear indications that the Congress is now ready for sacrifices to stop the BJP in 2019. The Congress needs to quickly move and initiate steps to cement this opposition unity.
Both UPA chairperson Sona Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi will have to display statesmanship. It will not be a cake walk for the Congress to smoothen rough edges in this onerous task. Regional leaders’ egos and their demands will have to be accommodated to keep everyone together. Leaders like Mamata Banerjee may try and push for leading roles for themselves in such an alliance. The Congress party may have to make major concessions to regional players’ demands as it did in Karnataka. But the only route to success in 2019 is the unity of secular forces against the BJP led by Narendra Modi.
The Congress did it in 2004 under Sonia Gandhi only to defeat the BJP. It must not shy away from its primary duty in 2019 under Rahul Gandhi as well. Stakes are much higher now as both the Constitution and the very idea of India that the Congress pursued to build a modern nation are under attack. Any sacrifice will be too little for the greater cause of protecting traditional Indian civilisational values of tolerance and accommodation of different faiths in a harmonious way.