Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa stepping down just before the Trust Vote in the Karnataka assembly brought an end to one of the most acrimonious post-poll scenarios in the country. The war of words was intense, from the common man on the streets to the media. The action of the governor three days prior—inviting the BJP leader to form the government with a period of 15 days to seek majority in the House—was considered an attack on democracy. Those against the BJP government alleged it to be a ploy to let the BJP engineer defections from other parties. Although the Supreme Court came to the rescue of the newfound post-poll alliance of rivals, the JD (S) and the Congress, the biggest loser was the BJP. It lost the chair and the beating to its image the party took will be one from which it will take some time to recover.
The Indian National Congress as the ruling party in the Centres has its share of notoriety during its long history of toppling state governments by misusing Article 356. Conversely the BJP, as a considerably newer party in its history, was known for working towards strengthening democratic institutions and decentralisation. The 91st Amendment that strengthened the Tenth Schedule and the limitation to the size of Cabinet was passed during the previous BJP-led NDA government in 2003.
In the present case it is well known that the JD (S) under HD Kumaraswamy has had a history of making alliances and going back on his word too. This was made known in the party’s previous alliances with the INC as well and the BJP. The stability of a JD (S)-Congress government is quite unlikely due to unsuccessful and more opportunistic alliances of the two before. The BJP as the single largest party—ruling at the centre too—would have considered it opportune to provide a more stable government if only it had some more MLAs. However, by inviting the BJP probably on the insistence of the central BJP, the governor went against the precedent that was followed earlier in Goa. In Goa the INC secured 17 seats and the BJP only 13. But with the support of other parties and independents the BJP was invited to form the government. However in the present case there was no letter of support either from the JD (S ) or the Congress MLAs for Yeddyurappa but he was still invited to form the government.
With the country’s general elections due for 2019, the BJP would have wanted to consolidate the 28 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka. In its course it instead badly damaged its own image, one that was built over the years. Power can be intoxicating; the Karnataka episode should remind the BJP about the misuse of power by ruling governments that it used to work against when it was an opposition party for many years.