The infamous Operation Kamala which has now spread its tentacles across the length and breadth of the country began in Karnataka in 2008. Over 20 MLAs of the Congress party and JD(S) were weaned away while cocking a snook at the 52nd Amendment and the 10th Schedule of the Constitution. Rajiv Gandhi had introduced the 52nd Amendment of the Constitution of India in order to arrest the 'aaya Ram gaya Ram' (Ram came, Ram went) culture prevalent in politics at that time, wherein he mandated that only if one-third members of a political party who change the party were to move, only then such defections were possible. This law was strengthened by Arun Jaitley as the Union Law Minister under Mr Vajpayee because they too believed that the democratic principles enshrined in constitution required to be strengthened.
However, in 2008, the BJP government thought of 'Operation Kamala,' by means of which opposition MLAs from political parties, upon receiving lucre, first resigned their seats, crossed the aisle, assumed office as ministers in the government and then contested elections as ministers. Now, since they were contesting as ministers, it became difficult for the electorate to reject them, considering that a minister can do a world of good for his constituency. When this was re-enacted, when Operation Kamala 2.0 began in 2018, and there were several MLAs from day one, who kept saying that they were being approached by the then opposition party (BJP) at the time, one MLA’s son (Sharanagouda Patil) held a press conference with the then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy in which he released the audio of BS Yediyurappa making an open offer to give them Rs 10 crore for switching sides. This was followed up by yet another damning video of Chief Minister Yediyurappa recently which was also presented to the Supreme Court.
It is in this background that the disqualification issue, which has been decided by the Supreme Court, has to be seen. The Supreme Court knew the fact that the Election Commission, based on developments in Tamil Nadu, had stated that disqualified MLAs were allowed to contest the immediate next elections. However, the Supreme Court has proceeded to disqualify all 17 MLAs while upholding the decision of the Speaker.
Under 10th Schedule, which is of the year 1985, there couldn't have been a manner of dealing with the nefarious act of buying MLAs and persuading them to resign from their seats. So it was for persons operating the Constitution like the Speaker and the Supreme Court to evolve a means of making sure that more such incidents do not recur.
Given the electoral mandate in Maharashtra, wherein there is a hopelessly fractured mandate, and MLAs may be poached upon, this judgement has extraordinary significance. As a political personality, I’d be failing in not mentioning that party hoppers like Alpesh Thakore and Dhavalsinh Zala in Gujarat and Udayan Raje Bhosale in Satara, who switched parties, were rejected by the people.
The Speaker has smeared tar on the disqualified MLAs. The Supreme Court has upheld that. It is in this tarred condition that these 17 MLAs have to go back to their constituencies and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate. The jury is out.
Brijesh Kalappa is a spokesperson of the Indian National Congress and a practising advocate in the Supreme Court.
(Views expressed here are the author's own)