You might be wondering why I am writing about Karnataka at a time when there is so much drama happening in Maharashtra! “Spirit of the Constitution” is the buzz phrase these days and is being only applied to the BJP in Maharashtra. This set me thinking on what a good example would be to discuss more in detail about “spirit of the constitution”. Turns out, Karnataka, post-May 2018 is the perfect example of discussing this.
The Congress party was ruling Karnataka at the time of going to elections in May 2018. The people of Karnataka booted the Congress party out of power– the verdict was unambiguous on that front. The ambiguity of the verdict lay in the fact that no single party got a simple majority. The BJP fell short of just 8 seats of a simple majority. The BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats. And JD(S) party ended up with 37 seats.
Innumerable precedents and “spirit of constitution” demanded that the single largest be called for forming of the government. The Congress party, which was rejected by the people of Karnataka announced support to the also-ran JD(S). Combinedly, they had the necessary numbers for forming the government in Karnataka. Someone, please explain to me how the coming together of two rejected parties is in the “spirit of the constitution”? Someone, please point to me all the different editorial and op-eds that call out this chicanery of the Congress party?
Once Supreme Court ordered for an immediate floor test, Yediyurappa resigned. And a Cong-JD(S) government was formed in direct contradiction to the “spirit of the constitution”. Yet, we had media celebrating the fact that all opposition parties have come together on one stage. And were also busy berating the BJP for having an obsession for power!
While in power, the Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy literally cried once saying that he is swallowing poison (referring to the troubles the Congress party was creating for him), and has bemoaned multiple times the problems he is facing. What “spirit of Constitution” allows an alliance partner to make the leader of the alliance literally cry in anguish?
The people of Karnataka gave a very resounding verdict in favour of the BJP and against the JD(S)-Congress alliance in the 2019 LS elections. The people were the ones who actually upheld the “spirit of the constitution”. Quite expectedly, these results resulted in churn in the JD(S) and the Congress party. MLAs had begun to rebel, at which point the English media got activated again. Messages were flowing left and right on how the BJP is “poaching” MLAs.
Under these circumstances, what is the right thing to do? 1. The rebel MLAs should resign, go back to the people explaining why they did it, and seek their verdict again. Or 2. The rebel MLAs don’t resign, change party affiliation and then enjoy power?
There will be an overwhelming consensus on Option 1. There will also be an overwhelming consensus that (1) never happens and (2) often happens. So when MLAs opt for (1), they are obviously upholding the “spirit of the constitution”. This is exactly what the 17 MLAs who rebelled did. They resigned.
We were all witness to the efforts Congress made to get back these MLAs to their fold. Upon failing to do so, the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly disqualified the 17 MLAs citing defection! Instead of accepting their resignations, the Speaker decides to disqualify them. “Spirit of Constitution” indeed. Not only that, he disqualifies them for even contesting elections till 2023! No Speaker has this power – of disqualifying citizens from contesting elections on any pretext. Yet, we did not see opinions on how the “spirit of Constitution” was being destroyed by the Congress party.
With the Assembly short of 17 members, the BJP obviously has a majority. Rightfully, they were called to form the government which they did. The disqualified MLAs went to the Supreme Court, which upheld their contention that they cannot be disqualified from contesting elections.
So let’s summarize this now. Two highest courts of the land – the people’s court and the Supreme Court – have both slapped the Congress party hard. Both did so, for violating the “spirit of constitution” and the letter of the constitution. On multiple counts. Karnataka is the best example of how one party upheld the “spirit of constitution” to the fullest and how one party abused the same. Yet the English media never highlights this abuse by the Congress party.
The by-polls for these 17 seats are scheduled on the 4th of December. The people are supreme and will speak again. If they give BJP the requisite majority, we will perhaps again see articles on how “money power” played a role in them winning!