POLITICS IN KARNATAKA HAS TOUCHED A NADIR, and governance has been reduced to a parody by corruption and opportunism. The open venality in the workings of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government headed by Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa—the first state in southern India to be governed entirely by the right-wing Hindu nationalist party without a coalition—has overshadowed the almost equally corrupt coalition and Congress governments that preceded it. Since its incumbency two years and four months ago, the state government in Bangalore has lurched from one shameful political crisis to another.
As the rest of the country celebrated the festive season, Karnataka was crippled by a constitutional crisis. Uniformed policemen entered the precincts of the Vidhana Soudha, the state assembly, to control unruly legislators, one of whom rather primally jumped on a table, tore his shirt and bared his chest for the media’s cameras. Then, whole batches of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) were deposited in fancy resorts in Goa to prevent them from getting ‘enticed’—which is rather transparent politesse for ‘horse-trading’—by rival affiliations. It came to light that the MLAs had hardly been shanghaied: they had made themselves available to the highest bidder.
The worst in politics emerges when there’s a fight for survival, and the BJP hit back by repeatedly questioning the neutrality of Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj, a former Union law minister and long-term Gandhi-family loyalist, who had made clear his intentions to dismiss the state government. To the BJP’s delight, Bhardwaj and the Congress high command fell out on the issue of autonomy. (Of course, a Constitutional functionary such as a governor is, in theory, supposed to be above party affiliations, but history shows that few governors have been deterred by such niceties.)