Karnataka: Democracy in danger as 3rd largest party fails to form government

In a dramatic development, the ruling BJP is expected to win at least 10-12 out of the 15 Assembly seats in Karnataka, where counting of votes for bypolls is in progress. This means that the five-month-old BJP government, led by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, will continue to hold power.

Ironically, this means that the third largest party (JDS) and the second-largest party (Congress) will be relegated to the opposition benches in Karnataka.

This development raises all sorts of questions about the future of democracy in India. Are Modi and Shah pushing India towards a new normal, where power is denied to parties that win fewer seats?

The last six years have seen an unprecedented assault on India’s democratic institutions, nurtured painstakingly over several decades of Congress monopoly rule. Never before has the role of the Election Commission been so questionable as it is now. Even as counting is in progress, disturbing reports are emerging about candidates with the most number of votes being declared winners.

Read: Karnataka by-polls: BJP ahead in 10 out of 15 assembly seats, needs 6 to retain power

One must understand that this is an antithesis of the idea of India. The idea of India is that minorities must have the first right to resources. As candidates with the most number of votes are declared winners, India is hurtling towards rule by the majority. What BJP and its leaders do not realize is that this proves Jinnah’s two nation theory correct. Unless India goes under minority rule, the idea of India loses out. This is the essence of the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb cultivated by Akbar, Aurangazeb and Taimur.

Even with today’s bypoll results, the BJP’s collective vote share in Karnataka is below 40%. Which means that 60% of the electorate have voted against the BJP. The problems with the First Past the Post System of voting have finally become evident in India after being in use for 70 years.

The only way to counteract the problems with the FPTP system of counting in seats is to have an LPTP (Last Past the Post System) in terms of government formation. A few weeks ago, using the LPTP system, the fourth, the third and the second largest parties in Maharashtra came together to give the state a truly democratic government.

Read: While the ghost of ‘spirit of constitution’ haunts again, here is how it was murdered and buried in Karnataka post-May 2018

Something similar had happened during the 2018 Assembly polls in Karnataka. The Congress emerged as the 2nd largest party and the JDS as the 3rd largest and therefore the rightful claimant for power. However, the Governor surprised everyone by inviting the BJP, the single largest party to form a government. Despite getting full 24 hours to prove his majority from the Supreme Court, the BJP failed to win the confidence vote on the floor of the Assembly. This led to the formation of the legitimate H D Kumaraswamy led JDS-Congress government in Karnataka.

This form of LPTP governance has a rich history in India. Quite literally. In 2006, the Congress and its UPA allies decided to honor the highest traditions of Indian constitutionalism when independent MLA Madhu Koda was made the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. Meanwhile, the BJP, which was the single largest party, had to sit in the opposition benches.

As India’s democracy sinks deeper into crisis, it is hard to see an immediate solution anywhere. One systemic solution is to replace the EVMs with Ballot Boxes, which are capable of collecting more than one vote per person. This technology was demonstrated amply during the Panchayat polls in Bengal last year.

Another solution is to restrict voting rights only to ’eminent’ citizens of India. The list of eminent voters will be drawn up not by the Election Commission but by an international panel consisting of representatives from the Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Le Monde and Dawn. The panel will be headed by an independent journalist who has published a minimum of five opeds in the New York Times.

In a functioning democracy, the moral victor is always the one with the least number of votes and/or seats. Denying the moral right of the moral victor to morally govern the state represents a great moral hazard to our democracy.

This post was last modified on December 9, 2019 1:04 pm

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