Karnataka politics is facing a crisis, once again. As several MLAs hand in their resignations to the Speaker in a clear attempt to topple the government, the state is witnessing drama that repeats itself every few years: MLAs herded into buses and planes to be shut up inside hotels; leaders who are supposed to be representing voters pushing and pulling and mobbing other leaders to achieve their ends; legislators competing in literal running races for all the world to see…
The people of Karnataka have witnessed such ridiculous antics from their elected representatives – from every party and ideology – so many times, that they’re tired and simply don’t care. However, MLAs of Karnataka are using and abusing this weariness of the voter to go ahead and insult them.
Technically, the Indian voter elects a representative, not a party. Of course, it would be naive to believe that the voter’s choice has nothing to do with the party – there is no doubt that a leader like Narendra Modi has popular support which translates to votes for the BJP’s chosen candidate in many seats. We have also seen examples of Independents winning with support from every party’s voter base – the way Sumalatha won the Parliamentary elections from Mandya just months ago.
At the end of the day however, it’s the candidate’s Constitutional duty to represent their electorate. It’s the local councilor, the MLA, and the MP, who have the job of connecting with the voter directly and ensuring that their interests are best represented, in the local body, the Assembly, or the Parliament.
Karnataka’s rebel MLAs want to abdicate this duty recklessly. And their reason is not public good.
Ramesh Jarkiholi from Gokak; Byrathi Basavaraj from KR Puram; ST Somashekhar from Yeshwanthpura; BC Patil from Hirekerur; Shivaram Hebbar from Yellapur; Pratapgouda Patil from Maski; K Gopalaiah from Mahalakshmi Layout; Mahesh Kumathalli from Athani; AH Vishwanath from Hunasuru; Narayana Gowda from Krishanarajapete; Munirathna Naidu from RR Nagar; Ramalinga Reddy from BTM Layout; Roshan Baig from Shivajinagar; MTB Nagaraj from Hoskote; K Sudhakar from Chikkaballapura; and Anand Singh from Vijayanagara want to resign from the job given to them by the voters of these constituencies for alleged personal gain.
They’re eager to give up the mandate they’ve received for a full five years – allegedly for money, minister posts and business interests.
At this juncture, it’s important to also mention the anti-defection law – the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution – that forces legislators to go along with the party they got elected from, even if it’s not in the best interest of their constituency. This law is problematic on many counts – it doesn’t let a legislator vote as per their conscience, and it diminishes the representative nature of our democracy in doing so. When legislators truly believe that the party or alliance they belong to is not working in the interest of the people, the anti-defection law doesn’t let them exercise the power given by the voter to them. That Karnataka legislators want to resign instead of simply changing their allegiance inside the House is because of this.
But if they have such a burden on their conscience, why don’t these legislators work to change the law? Why don’t they bring in amendments, canvass for support, and change things that are problematic, in the time that has been given to them – with the resources at their disposal thanks to public money?
That none of the MLAs who want to resign – or those trying to convince them otherwise, and those watching on the sidelines – have actually brought up any public issue in the duration of this circus shows this exercise is about power, not about the people. By resigning just a year into their term – which was granted to them by the voter for a full five years – the MLAs are basically shrugging and rolling their eyes at their duties. They are declaring that the voter’s mandate is irrelevant in the face of personal ambition and gain.
Which is why you – the voter – need to punish them, no matter how exhausted you are by their juvenile antics, no matter how much you want to put your hands up in the air and give up.
When the time comes for elections, voters from Gokak, KR Puram, Yeshwanthpura, Hirekerur, Yellapur, Maski, Mahalakshmi Layout, Athani, Hunasuru, Krishanarajapete, RR Nagar, BTM Layout, Shivajinagar, Hoskote, Chikkaballapura, Vijayanagara – and indeed every constituency in Karnataka – need to look at how their candidates’ wealth has changed since the last time they filed their affidavit.
Voters need to question those who have abdicated their duties in the middle of the term – not just in the current crisis, but any time in the past – why they should trust them not to do so again. We should question people who want to represent us how they plan to deal with a crisis if they come across one, instead of jumping ship and abandoning their constituents.
And if their answers are not satisfactory, voters must ensure they don’t get another mandate – just to throw it in the bin like a piece of garbage.
Views expressed are the author’s own.