Understanding the mandate is the crux of the Karnataka crisis. How do we understand what is the mandate delivered by the people of Karnataka? How do we actual gauge what the public voted for? Unfortunately we do not have proportional representational system where people voting for a percentage point would have solved the problem.
Many a time in first past the post system the party with the higher votes gets fewer number of seats. It has happened earlier, it happened yesterday.
The Congress getting more votes is also the half-truth because overall state vote share of the party became higher just because of one fact that out of the six regions, the BJP did extremely badly only in South Karnataka. If you take Karnataka as two different parts – Mysore Karnataka and the rest of the state, there is a broad split. In most of the state, the BJP has a clear edge of at least five percentage points. But in south Karnataka, BJP polled only 17 per cent because of which its overall vote share came down.
If southern Karnataka was a separate state, then BJP would have been out of the equation and the election would have been won by the Janata Dal (S) or JD(S) and the Congress would have been in opposition.
But in the rest of Karnataka, the BJP would have been sitting in power with a two-third majority. The gap here is so huge, almost 10 per cent in coastal Karnataka. The gap ranges from three to 10 points in different regions.
Talking about mandate, what does it mean? Let’s talk about the five regions. The BJP won and the Congress was reduced to dust. The mandate in the sixth region is that the JD(S) won and the Congress lost. In all the seats in the sixth region, it was the Congress fighting the JD(S).
Overall, the mandate in the state was classical anti-incumbency. The sitting MLAs lost, the chief minister lost one of his seats and many ministers also ended up as losers. If this is not an anti-incumbency verdict than we will have to re-define the word ‘anti-incumbency’.
It was a wave-less election and the anti-incumbency against the sitting MLAs was supreme, even though people were not that upset with the chief minister which was reflected in his ratings.
It is so typical and it has happened in so many states where a perfectly working chief minister has lost the election. Even an extremely popular prime minister lost in 2004 because there was anti-incumbency against the sitting MPs. In many states, the anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs overrides the functioning of the CM because this is not a presidential form of democracy.
So in that sense, the people of Karnataka delivered an anti-incumbency verdict. Once it is accepted, we find that JD(S) did not get the mandate to form the government. Five years ago, the party was second in terms of seats and the BJP was
relegated to the third position. For all practical purposes the JD(S) was the principle opposition party in the Karnataka assembly and it went to the people asking for a mandate against the Congress government. The anti-incumbency vote helped JD(S) to win the number of seats it has got.
How can JD(S) deny this fact and join the Congress to form the government? But unfortunately it has been like this when people for their own convenience have robbed the mandate, squeezed it and twisted it in a manner that suited them. There have been examples galore in the Indian political history.
In the Bihar election in 2005, in the first round, Nitish Kumar was close to forming the government. Ram Vilas Paswan, who had asked for votes against Lalu Yadav, refused to go with Nitish. Within six months, elections happened again and Nitish formed the government. When you don’t respect the mandate this is what you get. In 1999 the Vajpayee government went down and the people who were responsible for it joined the NDA within 72 hours just because they realised that public sentiment was against the move.
The mandate has been murdered in this country so many times. I definitely think what the BJP did in Goa was unethical. They can maintain that they formed the government because the Congress as the single largest party never staked claim but I don’t think what they did in Manipur was unethical for the simple reason that the Congress lost the election and the remaining opposition parties were not in favour of Congress forming the government. But Goa definitely was unethical. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate lost, all their ministers lost and the party came down to 13 MLAs. They should have told the governor we will sit in opposition. If the Congress was not able to form the government they should have gone for fresh elections. The verdict in Goa was clearly anti-incumbency.
The BJP had no role in forming the government in Arunachal Pradesh as well where the mandate was for the Congress. BJP had no role to bring down the then Uttarakhand government by doing what they did. So all these things, which the BJP did in the last few years, were absolutely wrong. The BJP leadership has a history of fighting emergency and the corrupt practices of the Congress regime. What right do they have to copy those corrupt practices? Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Legal and moral right
But today, the BJP has the legal and moral right to be invited to form the government: moral because it is an anti-incumbency verdict, legal because it is the single largest party. When they make the government there, it will be Operation Kamal 2.0. Unfortunately, there will be no public sympathy for the JD(S) and the Congress. They are unable to understand that they are defying the mandate for their own political compulsions.
When a serial abuser of the Constitution gets abused, it is legally and morally wrong but there is no public sympathy. Keeping their biases aside, one can easily understand what the mandate is, it is not rocket science. The Karnataka field is set on legal and moral playground. There are things which are morally right and legally wrong and vice versa. Both the camps are making their interpretations. As far as realpolitik is concerned, the governor will call the BJP. That does not absolve BJP of wrongdoing in Arunachal, Goa and Uttarakhand.