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Karnataka poll outcome indicative of India's coalition future

Political leaders say state election results show the maturity and strength of Indian democracy

Tejaswi Ravinder, Bengaluru

Tejaswi Ravinder, Bengaluru

Updated: May 22, 2018 10:49 AM GMT
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Karnataka poll outcome indicative of India's coalition future

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa (bottom right) of the Bharatiya Janata Party addresses the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly session before resigning from his post at Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on May 19. Yeddyurappa resigned after admitting he did not have enough support to form a government. (Photo by Manjunath Kiran/AFP)

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The southern Indian state of Karnataka is to have a coalition government following a state election seen as a harbinger for next year's national polls where no single party has a majority of seats.

The coalition — the Congress party and the local Janata Dal Secular (JDS) party — comes to power following a dramatic turn of events as a government formed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) collapsed on May 19 within three days of formation.

The BJP, contrary to its assertions, proved unable to muster a majority in the 224-member legislature.

After securing 104 seats, the BJP was invited to form a government after it emerged as the single largest party in the May 12 election.

BJP state chief B.S. Yeddyurappa was sworn in chief minister on May 16, a day after results were declared, claiming that the party had the support of at least 112 legislators.

However, just before the numbers were tested on the legislature floor on May 19, Yeddyurappa made an emotional speech and tendered his resignation as he did not have sufficient backing.

The BJP formed a government despite the claim made by the coalition that it had enough members to govern. The coalition declared it has a majority with 116 seats — Congress having 78 seats, the JDS with 37 members and an independent member.

Congress alleged that the BJP carried out large-scale attempts to bribe and intimidate its members as well as successful JDS candidates to change their allegiance. The coalition sought to keep its legislators incommunicado at a resort to isolate them from BJP offers.

A future of coalitions?

Following the collapse of the BJP government in Karnataka, the Congress-JDS coalition successfully staked its claim. JDS leader H.D. Kumaraswamy is scheduled to be sworn in as chief minister on May 23.

Political leaders such as Congress president Rahul Gandhi as well as secular leaders say the developments in Karnataka show the maturity and strength of Indian democracy despite serious attempts to undermine it.

"I am very proud to say that the BJP was shown that in India that power is not everything, in India money is not everything, in India corruption is not everything, in India the will of the people is everything," Gandhi told reporters.

Gandhi criticized the BJP for bending rules and constitutional requirements and trying to influence state governor Vajubhai Vala, the constitutional head of Karnataka, to help the BJP form a government despite the party not having the required majority in the house.

The incoming coalition government in Karnataka has buoyed the prospects of opposition parties and anti-Modi forces for the national parliamentary elections due early next year.

Political observer Shanta Patel said the developments in Karnataka had embarrassed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP's central leadership.

"The ouster of the BJP regime definitely brings relief to religious minorities and those who disapprove of the BJP's pro-Hindutva tilt, but the stability of the new government will always remain in question," Patel said.

He said in Karnataka, the coalition partners — Congress party and JDS — are also arch rivals. Both parties rely on the support of rural voters, especially, Muslims. "In fact, in this election, JDS has harmed Congress in at least 25 seats, so the rivalry could come to the fore," he said.

Another political observer, Narendra Pani, told ucanews.com that Congress was the true winner as it was not just about the actual number of votes.

Congress had been successful in garnering the highest proportion of votes — 38 percent — compared to the BJP gaining 36 percent, Pani said. 

Christians relieved?

Several Christian leaders — and many laypeople — expressed joy over the BJP's failure to continue in government.

"We are happy that the BJP has been shown the door," said Santosh James, a Christian living in the Muslim-dominated Shivajinagar area of the state capital Bengaluru.

"Now the onus is on JDS and Congress leaders to provide good governance," he said.

"Minorities have high expectations for the new coalition government."

Protestant Bishop Mohan Manoraj, from the Church of South India, noted that the BJP had tried its very best to use political power and money to buy off rival candidates but had not succeeded.

A.C. Michael, a Catholic lay leader based in New Delhi, said the election's final outcome was correct.

"It is a happy outcome. Basically, democracy is a numbers game and those who have the numbers forms the government," Michael said.  

"The BJP lied about the numbers to the government and supreme court in writing saying they can prove the majority in the floor of the house," said Michael, a former member of Delhi government’s Minority Commission. "Their unholy plans failed."

Michael said the BJP made the blunder of openly challenging constitutional and democratic principles, which "has shocked all right-thinking people."

"This shock will strengthen smaller parties to come together against these anti-constitutional forces" in the upcoming national elections, he said.

Protestant pastor Reverend Perina Prabhu told ucanews.com Christians had "no enmity" toward the BJP but could not afford to have another BJP government considering anti-Christian violence the state has seen since it came to power 10 years ago.

The state's southern area of Mangalore witnessed a series of violent incidents, including police beating people inside a church, soon after the BJP came to power in 2008.

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