Karnataka was no nataka: As BS Yediyurappa wins trust vote, 3 lessons we can't afford to miss
There are serious loopholes in our laws that let lawmakers get away with breaking the trust integral to our democracy. These gaps must be filled. Such lawmakers must be stopped.
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People in Karnataka may have lost trust in their MLAs — but BJP leader BS Yediyurappa won the trust vote in the Assembly on July 29, putting a temporary end to the political turmoil that threw governance in the state into a prolonged coma.
With 17 MLAs disqualified, BS Yediyurappa won the trust vote in the 225-member Assembly on July 29. (Photo: India Today)
With 17 MLAs disqualified, fresh trouble could follow the by-elections that are now imminent in Karnataka.
India is a mature democracy.
It has survived the vagaries of personal ambitions, secessionist movements, linguistic hegemony debates and also full-scale wars with its neighbours.
That elected representatives in Karnataka could then trample on democratic procedures is a fine statement of the fact that we are actually very far from being a perfect democracy.
As long as we are ready to take the lessons and work on them, that's fine.
Here are the three lessons that the developments in Karnataka threw at us.
1) The 2003 Amendment to the 10th Schedule of the Constitution leaves gaping holes
The anti-defection law came into existence in 1985.
The Amendment by which the 10th Schedule was inserted in the Constitution achieved three things.
1) It made legislators liable to be penalised for their conduct both inside (voting against the whip of the party) and outside (making speeches, etc.) the legislature — the penalty being the loss of their seats in Parliament or the state legislatures.
2) Two, it protected legislators from disqualification in cases where there was a split (with 1/3rd of members splitting) or merger (with 2/3rds of members merging) of a legislature party with another political party.
3) Three, it made the presiding officer of the concerned legislature the sole arbiter of defection proceedings.
In 2003, the provision to affect a spilt was withdrawn — since then, MLAs have been grouping up and going the merger way. Case in point — Goa, where 10 of the 15 MLAs switched to BJP.
Only when all political parties come together can a solution to the current imbroglio emerge.
As of now, no party seems ready to meet the other, even half-way through.
It's very real: Democracy has been the most abused over the past several months in Karnataka. (Photo: Reuters)
2) Right to recall legislators
The way MLAs in Karnataka played hardball, reportedly setting prices for the seats they were voted to, ensured that people lost faith in them — and yet, many of them voted in the Assembly today (July 29). Even the disqualified ones may get another chance to contest elections. Some of them may even contest from the parties, the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), they deserted if they are denied tickets by the BJP.
A mature democracy must allow people the right to recall their representatives if they fail to live up to their expectations.
3) Stop! Don't use 'nataka in Karnataka' again
Over the years, every absurd political development in Karnataka gets a 'nataka' added to it. 'Nataka' loosely translates to drama.
What has happened in Karnataka over the last few months is no drama — it is a very real insult of the people's mandate.
By calling this buying and selling of MLAs a 'nataka', we may just be playing down the enormity of what is happening — a massive undermining of democracy that has survived wars and conflicts.
It's a cliché. Let's just drop it.