To put it plainly, any description of the politicians’ shuffle under way in Karnataka appears shady — a group of MLAs who resigned from their respective parties, causing its government to collapse, have now been allowed to contest elections under a rival party which benefited by their resignations and formed a government of which they will likely be a part of.
One wonders, firstly, was this horse-trading planned from the start? (Ramesh Jarkiholi, one of the politicians who switched sides, admitted as much a few days ago).There is an obvious benefit to resigning: the ability to switch parties without violating the anti-defection law.
Secondly, is the Bharatiya Janata Party putting many of its constituencies at risk by leaving them in the hands of untrustworthy people?
To look at this as an isolated incident forming the backdrop of the upcoming bypolls will be wrong. Karnataka replaced one volatile government with another. Further, there are whispers throughout the state of B S Yeddyurappa’s troubled relationship with BJP top brass and falling confidence among voters in BJP.All eyes are also on former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Between the two, this election is about whose political acumen is better and whose leadership is capable of yielding results.
This is an election between two leaders for their political survival, leaders who are both facing challenges to their venerable positions from within their own parties.Disappointingly, the Supreme Court verdict has the stench of appeasement. It gave everyone hope and taught no one a lesson, something an ailing democracy needs. Because of it, persons involved in unethical practices like defection are being let off scot- free and they promptly go on to make a mockery of democracy.
Let us not forget the other key player in the bypolls — JDS — which needs to reassure its voters that it is neither a volatile party lacking ideological anchors nor a lowly opportunist.
Much to the pleasure of the unscrupulous renegades who dream of riding back into politically powerful offices, this election remains a mad race for power where party affiliation and ideologies are merely routine nuisances picked by convenience and market availability. There is neither moral nor shame in what these turncoats are doing by participating in this by-election.
Equally responsible is the passive voter who refuses to make wise choices while voting, as though the problems around them are someone else’s to solve. They are the only ones who can balance this mess despite being confused and rudderless.
Voters need to participate actively, whether they want to or not, despite living in a procedural democracy.
The public remains desirous and hopeful that this election might be a much-needed rap on the knuckles for defectors. And if they want to see any work done at all, it is time the voter spoke up, unlike during the last two elections. Perhaps the third time is the charm. Until these issues subside meaningfully, the winner in this election is of no consequence. The winner, too, will be just another routine nuisance.