Toppling governments a disservice to democracy

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

The toppling game in Karnataka has been on even before an inkling of the possible results was given by the exit polls.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath

The toppling game in Karnataka has been on even before an inkling of the possible results was given by the exit polls. The same game has begun in Madhya Pradesh, where Kamal Nath’s Congress government has a wafer-thin majority. These moves to break up MLAs' loyalties and entice them to break ranks is the bane of the spirit of democracy. Elections are the bedrock of democracy, reflecting the choice of the people, whose duty as well as right is to elect their representatives, who are invariably members of political parties. No doubt politics has a shifting dynamic. Any attempt to scuttle the people's voice by bringing about changes of government to suit a kind of majoritarianism in a federal setup should be seen as the antithesis of democratic principles.

The first recorded case of an elected government displaced came when the Communist government in Kerala, formed after the 1957 elections, was sacked two years later through the use of Article 356. If such an early instance of political gamesmanship was an aberration, the subversion of public choices became far more frequent later from splits in ruling parties after the Janata alliance came to power in 1977 and the toppling of governments opposed to New Delhi became frequent. Of course, Indira Gandhi played it like a game of "Monopoly" later with the frequent use of Article 356, a ploy which her son was also to use often. The age of the “Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams” was upon us and open trading in MLAs snowballed into an evil threatening the very roots of people electing legislators. If the Indian model of democracy is to cleanse itself of manipulative politics, the national parties must first stop aiming for power at any cost and going beyond the public choice by creating shifts in loyalties.

The reasoning that the Central and state governments should be under the same national dispensation for ease of governance is fallacious as it militates against the free will of the people in a diverse country that has chosen a Union, states and UT model to govern in a republic. The excessive manoeuvring of recent years was seen in manipulations in the Northeast and in Goa before Karnataka came to be ruled in a post-poll alliance. In both Goa and Karnataka, the single largest party could not form the government. While even that could be put down to a play for power where there is no clear majority, the destabilising of governments already in place by buying over loyalties is the worst disservice to democracy. The quoting of precedents will not justify any moves to grab power.

Governments may fall in the natural course as and when they are defeated on the floor of the Assembly or Parliament, but to induce a change of government by manipulation will be the equivalent of denying the people their right to vote in a government.