Bengaluru, a destination for ‘political tourism’

Muralidhara Khajane | Updated on March 23, 2020

The rise of ‘resort politics’ has stepped up business in the city

Growing fears of political defections have resulted in a booming business for some high-end resorts in and around Bengaluru over the past decade. The Silicon City has turned out to be a most sought-after destination for “political tourism”.

As many as 17 erstwhile members of the Legislative Assembly from Madhya Pradesh — Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalists who have now joined the BJP — were whisked away to a resort on the outskirts in eastern part of Bengaluru near Whitefield-Mahadevapura area. Former BJP minister Arvind Limbavali was reportedly entrusted with the responsibility of managing these legislators to facilitate “Operation Lotus” targeting former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. It was another matter that Kamal Nath quit before the inevitable.

DK Shivakumar of the Congress in Karnataka is known to manage such situations. He provided political shelter to Congress legislators from Mumbai and Gujarat earlier. The political strategy of protecting the legislators to protect or topple a government is nothing new to Karnataka, especially Bengaluru.

Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, pulled a coup on NT Rama Rao government in August 1984 with the support of the Congress. The Janata parivar government headed by Ramakrishna Hegde provided protection to MLAs supporting NTR in Bengaluru.

In August 2017, when the Congress was looking for a safe haven to protect its 44 MLAs from Gujarat, amid growing fears of defections reportedly engineered by BJP, the Congress high command asked the Congress-ruled Karnataka government to provide shelter to Congress MLAs. The task of protecting the MLAs was given to Vokkaliga strongman and then State Energy Minister DK Shivakumar. The choice of Shivakumar was natural as he had managed to save the Vilasrao Deshmukh government in Maharashtra by flying out the Congress legislators on a chartered flight to Bengaluru to prevent poaching by the BJP in 2002.

In 2004, when Karnataka got a fractured mandate, the regional party JD (S) shifted all its 58 legislators to a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru under the leadership of HD Kumaraswamy, before former Prime Minister and JD (S) supremo HD Deve Gowda stitched an alliance with the Congress.

Similarly when the electorate of Karnataka delivered a hung Assembly verdict in 2018, political parties turned to resorts within the State to keep their newly elected legislators safe from poaching. The Congress’ 77 legislators were packed to a resort at Bidadi by Shivakumar. The intention was to prevent the BJP with 104 seats from coming to power.

According to Constitutional experts, grey areas such as incentivising members to resort to activities that invite expulsion from the parties need to be looked into. Disqualification should be imposed only on legislators’ votes against the stand taken by the party.

As for the rules on dismissal of governments, the SR Bommai case is moot. In 1989, the Janata Dal government headed by the then Chief Minister SR Bommai was dismissed by the Governor and President’s rule was imposed. Bommai moved the Supreme Court questioning the dismissal, and the Court ruled in his favour. It said that the majority of the government is subjected to the test of strength on the floor of the House and the Governor has no role in such a political scenario.

Meanwhile, there is every chance to promote Bengaluru as a “cool” destination for “political tourism”.

The writer is a senior journalist

Published on March 23, 2020

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