Elections appear to bring out the animal spirits of politics within the BJP, particularly if it is for the Rajya Sabha, where it is still short of a simple majority. At a time when coronavirus cases were just beginning to explode, the party mauled the Congress in Madhya Pradesh in March and snatched power in the state after the dramatic defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia and the lawmakers who supported him. The bigger prize for the BJP was a Rajya Sabha seat prised out of the hands of the smug Congress chief minister Kamal Nath, whose ego clash with Scindia led to the latter leading the coup and getting the Upper House ticket as reward.
Around the same time, the saffron party was also working to snatch a Rajya Sabha seat that the Congress thought it could easily win in Gujarat. The GOP needed the support of 70 MLAs to comfortably pocket two RS seats through first preference votes and had 73 on its own in addition to the support of independent lawmaker Jignesh Mewani. But it had not factored in the resignation of five of its MLAs engineered by the BJP to secure three of the four seats up for grabs. Biennial elections were postponed due to the pandemic to June 19, giving the ruling party ample time to work on further defections. It has since snared three more Congress lawmakers and a couple more are expected to fly the coop, forcing the listless party to herd its remaining flock to resorts in Rajasthan.
As for the BJP, it was following its 2017 playbook when it engineered the resignation of nine Gujarat Congress MLAs and more GOP abstentions on polling day as the RS contest was between two gladiators—Ahmed Patel and Amit Shah. Patel scraped through but the BJP had shown its fangs. The Modi-Shah combine has since displayed an appetite for raw power that was not seen in previous leaderships of the party. Using the levers of democracy to serve its ends has even drawn adverse judicial comment. But the party is single-minded in its pursuit to capture the Rajya Sabha, ready to pay the price of absorbing turncoats, as the Karnataka rumble indicates. Distortion of democracy or not, the juggernaut rolls on crushing all opposition.