On August 2, as Karnataka waited to know who would become ministers in the state cabinet, it was not just the public that was clueless, but even the newly sworn in Chief Minister. Basavaraj Bommaiâ€™s repeated statements to the media that the High Command will decide on who becomes ministers clearly showed that the Chief Minister and an elected government are just a facade, while the party in the state has become one completely remote-controlled from Delhi. A criticism that the BJP used to throw at the Congress.
That the BJP High Command does not trust the decision making skills of its own party leaders in the state is evident, but the episode also points at how elected legislators have wilfully chosen to be subservient to the High Commandâ€™s whims and fancies. So much so that the Chief Minister, the chief of the executive of the state himself, has no apparent say over the formation of his council of ministers.
And all this isnâ€™t new. When BS Yediyurappa banked on his own unconventional and questionable resourcefulness (or read Operation Kamala 2.0) to destabilise the preceding JD(S)-Congress government, he had to wait two months for the High Command to greenlight the appointment of his cabinet.
This overarching hold of the party High Command in stateâ€™s affairs leads to the question -- did we really need the 2018 Assembly elections? And even more so the subsequent bye-elections which were necessary to cement the BJPâ€™s hold over government formation in the state. Many can argue that a Governorâ€™s rule could have essentially delivered the same, given the BJP continues to be in power at the Union government level.
This remote control arrangement by the BJP is strange, given the party had championed itself as an alternative to the countryâ€™s grand old party, the Congress, and its deplorable High Command culture. But here in Karnataka, it would seem the High Command culture of the Congress has been emulated by the BJP and elevated further. First, the High Command dislodged BS Yediyurappa from the CMâ€™s seat amid raging floods and a waning second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, for their own ego battles. Second, the partyâ€™s famed High Command made the new CM camp in Delhi, amid the calamities in the state, to get his cabinet appointed.
This extension of the High Command culture adds to the frustration of the stateâ€™s electorate thatâ€™s already seen many Chief Ministers not completing their terms, and another Chief Minister who wonâ€™t be in the seat for more than two years has now been added to the list.
This whole exercise is an insult not only to the political representatives and the people of Karnataka, but also to the concept of federalism which is enshrined in the Constitution. Karnataka, by virtue of being an Indian state, deserves a government which addresses the people's needs and caters to their aspirations -- not one that is engineered by people sitting miles away in Delhi.
Views expressed are the authorâ€™s own.