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'What you are seeing in Karnataka is disgraceful'

February 01, 2019 09:20 IST

'Who's providing all this money to the BJP? And who's providing all this money to the Congress?'
'Where did all this money come from?'
'Who is enabling all these MLAs to be bought for Rs 50, 60 crores?'
'There's one MLA on whose behalf somebody claimed that the BJP invited him for Rs 60 crores. Whose money is this?'

IMAGE: Karnataka's Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa and other party leaders at a hotel in Gurugram. Photograph:ANI/Twitter

IMAGE: Karnataka's Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa and other party leaders at a hotel in Gurugram. Photograph:ANI/Twitter

There seems to be no end to the H D Kumaraswamy government's troubles in Karnataka.

Every second day the 'instability' of the political situation in Karnataka makes it to the headlines, whether it is over an alleged 'poaching' attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party or the infighting within the Congress or Congress MLAs scorning their alliance partner, the Janata Dal-Secular.

At least twice Chief Minister Kumaraswamy has complained about the attitude of the Congress MLAs towards him. And every other day he levels allegations of poaching against the BJP.

The recent tension in the state saw both the Congress and BJP shifting their MLAs to hotels or resorts.

While state BJP chief Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa took all the party MLAs to Gurugram, saying the Congress may try to 'buy' their MLAs, the Congress shifted all its MLAs outside Bengaluru when four of its legislators skipped the legislature party meet on January 18.

"Certainly, there is plenty in the Congress that is dirty and murky. But there is no doubt in my mind that much of what is happening in Karnataka is entirely because of the BJP, entirely because of dirty money and black money, and entirely because mainstream media ignores the sins of the BJP," political commentator Krishna Prasad tells Rediff.com's Utkarsh Mishra.

 

Has Operation Kamal 2.0, to replace the JD-S government with the BJP, failed?

Operation Kamal is a nice way to describe something that is extremely damaging to Indian democracy.

What is a very deeply disturbing, deeply dangerous, attempt to subvert democracy by the BJP has been given a name like Operation Lotus in the media, as if it is some army operation.

When it happened previously, 10 years ago, it was bad. And this time it was worse.

I don't think it has ended. It may just have a brief pause.

But most importantly, I think that Operation Lotus is a business model that the BJP is using in many states.

So I think that whatever you call this horrible thing, Operation Lotus or Kamal or 2.0 or whatever, has only had a brief pause because constantly the BJP is going to try to dislodge the Kumaraswamy government.

Which is a legitimate exercise, they are free to do that. But the methods, the money, the muscle power, the tax terrorism that is involved in this whole operation will continue till this goes on.

The BJP, which got more seats than the Congress and the JD-S in the last assembly election, will continue to dub this alliance as an unholy one. It will continuously keep pretending that it deserves a first shot at power, that it has been denied that attempt legitimately by the Supreme Court.

When the Congress-JD-S formed the government, everyone was very sure -- because of their difficult relationship -- that it will not last beyond the Lok Sabha elections.

Even for the Lok Sabha elections, it's not a relationship cast in stone.

So because of that nature, there will always be efforts by the BJP.

But I don't think they can afford to have one more effort to form the government before the Lok Sabha elections, because it's not feasible in terms of time.

If, for example, the BJP is dislodged from power in 2019, I think Operation Kamal or Operation Lotus or 'operation disgusting' will cease.

But if the BJP comes back to power (at the Centre) in 2019, the attempts to dislodge (the Congress-JD-S) government will keep going on because there are still four more years left for the (Karnataka) government.

Whether the BJP wins or loses the Lok Sabha polls it will continue to have 104 seats in the Karnataka assembly. So therefore they will always see their chances.

Will the BJP make another attempt before the 2019 election?

No, I don't think so, unless there are other things to this Operation Lotus.

The first time it (Operation Lotus) happened 10 years ago, the whole idea was that Congress MLAs would resign their seats without giving any valid reason. And in the fresh elections they would stand as BJP candidates. And that's how the BJP would get more numbers.

But I think now, with the BJP in power at the Centre, the strategy may well have changed to also include the office of the governor.

So, for example, if the Karnataka governor decides to dismiss the state government, then it takes a different route.

But the original Operation Kamal I don't think they (the BJP) can afford to do once again before the elections because then they will get distracted.

They need to keep their focus on the Lok Sabha polls.

The party won 17 (Lok Sabha) seats in 2014. From what we hear, the target now is 20 seats. So if they have to fulfil the target they can't keep getting distracted by attempts to form a government here.

So I would presume they won't mount another attempt unless they use the governor's office to do something, which is a strong possibility.

IMAGE: Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and his ministers at the swearing in ceremony. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

For the time being, do you call the overall situation in the state stable?

Not at all. I think all three parties are going through a fair bit of churn, a fair bit of action.

There is no way anyone can say this government is stable. As I said, (not only) because of the BJP, but also because of themselves. They (the Congress and JD-S) also have contradictions.

But for the moment I think it would be, at least for the next two-three months, unless there is a really dramatic set of developments, I would presume, it will be a somewhat stable, somewhat unstable, somewhat fragile, somewhat weak, somewhat juicy -- for other parties -- a Trishanku kind of situation.

That may be the case till the general election.

Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah threatened to invoke the anti-defection law, but despite that four MLAs skipped the CLP meet.

I think one of the things that is really worth looking at is what has really caused this instability to this government.

It's easy for the Congress to blame the BJP, but the Congress itself has plenty to explain.

I don't think the Congress comes out very well in these last six or seven months.

It is very easy to blame Operation Lotus or operation this or that. But since they managed to prevent the BJP from coming to power in Karnataka, I think the Congress has conducted itself extremely poorly.

They have fought over portfolios, they have fought over inclusion of some MLAs. There has been a whole lot of trouble between Siddaramaiah's group and this group and that group.

The whole trouble seems to have started by D K Shivakumar who is seen as the architect of this alliance and who is from southern Karnataka, entering into Belgaum, in a place called Gokak, which has not been taken too kindly by the MLAs and established forces in that part of the state.

So what you see is a complete cock-up by the Congress.

The Congress seems to have been so completely satisfied at preventing the BJP from coming to power that they have let loose a whole variety of forces which have really damaged this government.

It has been a very lacklustre government of seven months; absolutely colourless, absolutely joyless.

If you look at Kumaraswamy, half the time he's crying.

It is almost as if they are just trying to spend time till the general election.

There have been no great policy initiatives. Kumaraswamy is a big waffler. Even on an issue like farm loan waiver, he has just gone on and on.

So while we might blame the BJP, I think both parties have enough to explain to the people.

It has been a relentless set of messages and signals from the Congress, one against the other.

Kumaraswamy's brother against Siddaramaiah, the deputy chief minister (G Parameshwara) against somebody else, Shivakumar against somebody else.

Take out the external optics, I think internally the Congress has really poorly served in these past seven months.

There are rumours that Siddaramaiah himself is trying to come back to power. I can tell you that he has told two friends of mine personally that he will come back to power.

So I think part of the reason for being seen as an unstable government is this.

Every other day there is talk of dissidence, every other day there is talk of resort politics, every other day there is talk of Congress vs JD-S or JD-S vs Congress, every other day there is talk about ministerial portfolios or chairmanship of boards and corporations.

So it has been a very mediocre Congress on display in Karnataka.

And this attitude of the Congress is not just limited to Karnataka. You see the same situation in Gujarat. There, too, after somehow putting up a creditable performance, the Congress has shot itself in the foot.

So a broad national message is that the Congress is so completely satisfied with preventing the BJP from coming to power or by giving them a tough fight that they just don't bother after that.

What after you win and what after you stop the BJP? What do you do as policy? What do you do as people?

I am pretty sure it will be reflected in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan also.

Rahul Gandhi, after doing what he did and getting all the praise for it, must read the riot act to his partymen who are making a mockery of these verdicts.

It just seems that both parties, especially the Congress, are extremely happy to allow this situation to go around till the Lok Sabha election.

If the BJP wins the 2019 election, this government will be in a really serious trouble.

There were reports that this chaos was primarily caused by the rivalry between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah and the BJP was not so responsible for it.

I don't believe that. Of course, there is rivalry between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah as it should be, you know, they are all powerful politicians with great ambitions.

But nobody can deny that the BJP has been up to no good for all this time.

If the BJP was not involved in it and it was primarily a Congress thing, then why did the BJP need to keep its MLAs at a hotel where the room rent starts from Rs 25,000 per room per night? Why would they do that?

What you are seeing in Karnataka is an absolutely disgraceful sight.

Who's providing all this money to the BJP? And who's providing all this money to the Congress?

We should never forget that in the early 1980s, Karnataka was seen as a state of value-based politics. Ramakrishna Hegde was the chief minister, he introduced this term 'value-based politics'. And he would resign every other day because he felt he owed a debt to the people.

From Hegde's value-based politics the state (has come to) this kind of situation politically where the BJP spends hundreds of crores.

If you look at the numbers provided by the BJP, it spent three times more money than the Congress in the assembly elections last year.

Where did all this money come from? Who is enabling all these MLAs to be bought for Rs 50, 60 crores?

There's one MLA on whose behalf somebody claimed that the BJP invited him for Rs 60 crores. Whose money is this?

Who is paying for all these room rents?

So therefore, to blame (internal politics) of the Congress for all this is not the right thing here.

The BJP has much to explain. Mr Narendra (Damodardas) Modi talks of corruption-free politics, saying 'ye dhan wadi hain' (for the Opposition), but whose dhan (money) is being used here?

How come the Reddy brothers are in the scene each time in different ways?

What you are seeing in Karnataka is a shift from value-based politics to this kind of absolutely third-rate politics, this goondagiri where MLAs beat up each other, where MLAs are offered Rs 60 crores.

Two MLAs actually resigned and if you look at the resignation letters of both, they are identically worded. They are written in the same font, the same words are used, which tells you that there is a concerted attempts to subvert Karnataka's democracy by the BJP.

For no reason would I believe that it is the Congress whose troubles (have caused all this).

Certainly, there is plenty in the Congress that is dirty and murky.

But there is no doubt in my mind that much of what is happening in Karnataka is entirely because of the BJP, entirely because of dirty money and black money, and entirely because mainstream media ignores the sins of the BJP. And wants to focus on other parties while not questioning the BJP on its source of funds, the money it spent in Karnataka, the money it is spending in buying up MLAs.

So to answer your question, yes, the Congress is much to blame. But the BJP is the one who is the guilty party here.

Why is Karnataka so crucial for the BJP that it keeps attempting to dislodge a full majority government?

One, of course, is because the BJP got 104 seats, up from 40 seats that it got in the previous election. They think that they have been denied a legitimate shot at power by the Supreme Court.

They wanted 15 days, but the Supreme Court said no you prove majority in two days. So they were exposed in their attempt to form a government by the Supreme Court.

But they believe they have a legitimate right to form this government because they got the most number of seats. So that is one reason.

The second reason is, of course, their prestige, which is that this is the only state in the South where the BJP has done well in the last 15, 20 years.

So they see this as their so-called gateway to the South.

And thirdly and most importantly, at this point the BJP has suffered three big losses in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

So they need to create some positive hawa. Therefore, they are trying to do this as an optical game.

And Karnataka is one of India's richest states, particularly Bangalore city.

So they want hold over a state which is very rich in finances.

So for these three or four reasons I think the BJP is desperate to come to power in Karnataka.

Congress dissidents have been accommodated as ministers in the couple of ministerial expansions and now the Congress's quota of ministries is full. Are there still dissidents? How will the Congress deal with them?

Yes. And from what I am reading in news reports, they mollified some of the dissidents in the Congress legislature party meeting, saying they will be accommodated in some fashion or the other.

Either they will make somebody resign, or give corporation chairmanships or do one of those things.

It's a self-goal by the Congress in a sense because D K Shivakumar's overtures in northern Karnataka have not gone down well.

In a family of two brothers -- Satish Jarkiholi and Ramesh Jarkiholi -- one was in the ministry previously, the other one has been accommodated.

First, the Congress ignored M B Patil who is seen as the architect of the Lingayat movement. But he has been accommodated now.

You see a lot of different Congress MLAs calling each other names.

These people are not holding back anything anymore.

What you see in Karnataka is an overall collapse of any kind of values in politics.

Questions should be asked from both the Congress and the BJP, and in fact the JD-S, that from where all this money is coming from.

The only thing that united all the politicians in Karnataka is the death of Lingayat seer Shivakumara Swami. It brought all these fellows on the same platform.

But otherwise they are all snapping at each other. There is no decency in their discourse.

Can these attempts by the BJP backfire on the party in the general election?

I don't know how much all these things play on people's minds. If these operations were bad in the eyes of the people, they wouldn't have voted for the BJP a second time.

They've seen this and they've seen that and they think that 'hamaam me sabhi nange hain (we are all naked)'.

In this political milieu that we have, there is also an underwhelming feeling that the Congress and the JD-S have formed the government by beating the people's mandate.

So people are going to excuse these things. I, for one, do not believe that this will have an impact on the general election.

It will only have an impact if the BJP comes to power (before the general election). Then it will be able to convert those 17 seats into 20.

On the other hand, if the JD-S and Congress manage to stay together, will it really impact the BJP? Because most people think that looking at their vote share, the BJP will get about seven or eight seats out of 28.

If that happens, then it can be said that Operation Lotus -- Operation Dirty Lotus -- has really backfired.

So it depends on the outcome of the general election whether the Kumaraswamy government will complete its full term or not?

100 per cent. But that is secondary. As I said, another obstacle that has emerged now is the governor's office.

If the governor becomes proactive and decides to do what all governors seem to do elsewhere, then even before the general election, you could see some action.

But if the governor allows politics to go on as normal, if he doesn't intervene using the central government, then I think the Lok Sabha election will decide the future of this government.

Utkarsh Mishra / Rediff.com