The foremost reality that jumps out of the recently concluded Karnataka assembly elections is that political parties cannot lift themselves out of the morass into which they have sunk. Though efforts were made predictably by the BJP and the Congress-JD(S) combine to spin the script to their own moral advantage, the over-riding reality is that all parties seem cynical of morality. They are of the same species in believing that democracy is no more than a play of numbers; and politics, a sphere of expediency hitched to cornering power and tweaking governance to one’s own profit. The man on the street knows this to be inherently, perversely immoral.
All parties want to occupy ‘the moral high ground’ without having to be hamstrung by morality. In such a situation morality serves only to sharpen allegations and counter-allegations. One is virtuous for the sole reason that the other is wicked in one’s own opinion, which the rest of the world is obliged to swallow without questions asked. This lends itself to hypocrisy. What is readily tolerated and vigorously justified in oneself –corrupt practices of diverse hues- is damned in others. At the same time one’s own blatant aberrations are justified on the premise, “Look who is talking; didn’t you do the same when you were in power?” This moral parity is then used to prove that the party in question is different from, and superior to, all the rest.
In light of annexing the moral high ground, consider the ‘party with a difference.’ BJP wants us to believe that Yeddyurappa’s resigning before his unprincipled bid to capture power without the means to justify holding it via the floor test, exemplifies a sublime height in political morality. This is incorrect factually and repugnant morally. Rajiv Gandhi did it more laudably, in happier circumstances. Yeddyurappa’s inability to buy up enough legislators in quick time should the Supreme Court have treated this desperate old man so unkindly? And his indignation that the rival parties frustrated his altruistic craving to serve the people of Karnataka by keeping their MLAs out of his reach – which is goondagardi, in his opinion – do not, unfortunately for him, comprise a stage conducive to choreographing the moral stature of a person or a party.
Of course, we are told in so many words, repeated a hundred times over, that the people of Karnataka gave the mandate to the BJP. They are heart-broken that they have been cheated of the felicity of being ruled by that party. But the facts read differently. 104 seats out of 224 is not exactly a mandate. It is a fairly obvious rebuff. Especially viewed against the massive efforts and investments the BJP made into this election. No single party had any mandate, though the Congress can claim greater popular support in terms of the percentage of votes it polled, which is more than that of BJP. But that, says the BJP spokespersons, doesn’t count. The Congress-JD(S) combine has 21% more votes than the BJP.
Surely, political parties think all of us are cretins and idiots. None of us can understand simple things like number of seats, how many seats comprise the majority (and hence people’s mandate), what is ethical and what is not, and so on. So, we are told at every turn what to think. So, if the BJP fell short of the half-way mark we have to believe that that party had the mandate. How this is, we do not know; nor are we told. We are expected to believe it, because the boss thinks so.
A notable outcome of the Karnataka elections is that it deflated the Modi-Shah balloon. They made it a prestige fight. They moved heaven and earth to ensure victory. The commencement of the triumphal march of the party into the non-Aryan stronghold was announced with great aplomb.
A story about the Ford car illustrates this. Someone, carried away by the hype about the car, bought one expecting it to run on the strength of its reputation. The car went a few hundred meters, spluttered and stopped. He got furious. Summoned the company engineer. He found that the car had no petrol in its tank.
“But this is a Ford,” expostulated the irate owner.
“The Ford reputation,” quipped the engineer, “can take you only this far.”
The time has come for the BJP to realize that the Modi rhetoric can take that party only this far. It is no permanent substitute for good governance. As Murali Manohar Joshi said very aptly, when asked to rate the Modi government, “when there is nothing in the answer script, how can the candidate be evaluated?”
The NDA partners, I assure you, are saints. They have perfected the art of self-denial to the uttermost. The people of India are hardly aware of anyone or any party in the Central Government. NDA partners? Who are they? In which glen do these spectres dance? It is Modi, Modi, Modi…nothing but Modi. And we are living, just in case you are confused, in a democracy.