Karnataka has become quite a case study. First, an unquelled rebellion among MLAs led to a change of government, now disgruntlement among another set of MLAs and ministers is making the government look too caught up with its own contradictions to spare thoughts for governance.
The ruling order just does not seem to get it right.
Maybe the fractured mandate was to blame—the BJP did not have a clear lead, the Congress was down but not out, neither was the third party, the JD(S), wiped out. That gave MLAs a disproportionate hold over things.
In theory, those elected as people’s representatives have the right to choose who would lead them. And that leader has the prerogative of choosing the council of ministers. However, that’s not exactly how it works on the ground.
The political party system mediates, very often erratically, between the people and democratic governance. And that, very often, means atmospherics built around caste, religion, ethnic denominations come into play. It’s in this twice-removed process, where the electorate has little say, that fiefdoms develop.
Karnataka is witnessing a tussle between the interests of those trying to safeguard their fiefs and the pragmatic necessity of evolving a combination that aggregates those interests to create a governance whole.
Switching sides, or getting disqualified in trying to do so, is part of that game. Stability (or governance) seems to be least on anyone’s agenda.
The BJP high command (which means Amit Shah) wants a system where individual interests are subservient to the party’s.
Neither the state nor those elected through the old system seem ready to make such a transition. Under the circumstances, the best way would have been to call another election and seek a clearer mandate. But a state that has just seen bad floods can ill afford another debilitating election. Uncertainty, therefore, seems a fait accompli.