BENGALURU: With uncertainties continuing in the formation of a government, Congress has moved its 78 legislators to a safe resort outside the city. This culture, however, is not new to the state. Resort politics in Karnataka is almost 15 years old while on the national scene, it has had a checkered history of more than 50 years. Political analysts opine this has arisen owing to open horse trading in the event of a hung assembly followed by the ugly display of money power by elected representatives.
The repeated instances of protection of legislators in luxury resorts of Bengaluru and Goa during 2009-11 is still fresh in the minds of people and the TV pictures of MLAs relaxing, swimming, playing and enjoying themselves, in fact, was considered to be very repulsive. This protective tool has been resorted to by all the three major political parties — Congress, BJP and JD(S) — in the state from 2004 till date where MLAs have hopped from resort to resort and city to city.
Just as in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, parties in the state have been using this tool to keeping their flock safe and incommunicado in safe resorts with all the facilities. Two politicians — Janardhana Reddy and D K Shivakumar — have mastered the art of keeping the MLAs intact in a resort where they cannot be reached, opines a party leader.
Just last year, the Congress had protected its flock of 44 legislators from Gujarat at the Eagleton Resort courtesy Shivakumar in Bengaluru. This was ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections as a number of their MLAs had defected to the BJP. In 2011, B S Yeddyurappa had taken his flock of 60 legislators to a swanky resort outside Bengaluru so that his protegee Sadananda Gowda could be made the CM.
Again in 2012, Yeddyurappa resorted to resort politics but this time to dislodge Gowda. In 2010, with 18 legislators withdrawing support to the Yeddyurappa government, the BJP rebels hopped from hotel to resort and from Chennai to Kochi to Goa while the Congress kept its flock intact at a resort near Bengaluru. While in 2009, Janardhana Reddy, leading the dissident campaign against Yeddyurappa, too resorted to resort politics.
Political watcher N K Mohan Ram says, “It was in the 1980s that people saw for the first time NTR bringing his flock of MLAs to Bengaluru who were kept in a safe resort outside the city and Ramakrishna Hegde gave all the assistance for their protection. These legislators were later literally paraded before the President. Since then, there have been many resort managers in all the three parties — Jeevraj Alva, Janardhana Reddy, D K Shivakumar and others to name a few. The per day expenses for keeping the legislators easily amounts to `20-25 lakh. Further, the expense of arranging their flights, road transport and their personal expenses runs to crores of rupees.”
RLM Patil, political scientist, opines that horse trading, which is an unethical practice in a democracy, has led to resort politics in recent times. He adds, “All parties have used this tool to protect their flocks. If smaller parties are vulnerable to poaching, bigger parties — when they face one third split in the party — resort to such unethical methods. Just last year, Shivakumar shepherded the Gujarat Congress legislators from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru. This is inimical to democracy. However, it does not attract provisions of the Anti-Defection Act.”
Resort politics has evolved due to the loopholes in the Anti-Defection law and the courts are helpless unless the law is scrapped, opine political thinkers. Although resort politics was not prevalent in the earlier days but the culture of “aaya ram, gaya ram and aa gaya Ram” in Haryana-Punjab region gave birth to such unethical practices. The Nawab of Faridkot who perfected this art with 36 defections and won every election from this constituency in Punjab state, in fact was very popular with the electorate.
Instances when mlas were herded off
After a number of Congress MLAs in Gujarat defected to the BJP ahead of the Rajya Sbha polls there, 44 Congress legislators from the state were put up in a resort in Bengaluru
In 2011, B S Yeddyurappa had taken 60 legislators to a resort outside Bengaluru so that Sadananda Gowda could be made the CM
In 2012, BSY resorted to resort politics but this time to dislodge Gowda
In 2010, with 18 legislators withdrawing support to the BSY government, the BJP rebels hopped from hotel to resort and from Chennai to Kochi to Goa while the Congress kept its flock intact at a resort near Bengaluru
In 2009, Janardhana Reddy, leading the dissident campaign against BSY, too opted for resort politics