India's Tom and Jerry Show
Image Credit: Denis Defreyne

India's Tom and Jerry Show

 
 

The ruling Congress Party and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party are continuing their Tom and Jerry relationship as they find new points of conflict with remarkable ease and frequency.

The latest tussle between them is over the state government of Karnataka, which is ruled by BJP Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, but which also has a long-serving governor, HR Bhardwaj, hailing from the Congress. 

Yeddyurappa’s administration is frequently dismissed by opponents as deeply corrupt, and Bhardwaj—a former law and justice minister in the central government who is known to be close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi—has reportedly twice now written to the central government calling on it dismiss the Yeddyurappa government.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The Karnataka drama spilled over to the national capital on May 17, when a belligerent Yeddyurappa paraded 122 BJP members of the legislative assembly before Indian President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan to demonstrate his party’s clear majority in the 224-member body.

The Congress-led alliance, meanwhile, is said to be fuming over Bhardwaj’s hasty conduct, and there’s no indication it has any intention of following up on his request. Indeed, Bhardwaj’s actions have raised questions over whether he could actually have placed himself in the firing line.

A key thing to take from Tuesday’s show of strength by Yeddyurappa is that the BJP has successfully cornered the Congress on the issue, and seems determined to press home its advantage. The BJP camp is therefore expected to continue its pressure tactics until the central government recalls Bhardwaj, or at least shifts him to another state.

The BJP certainly milked the Rashtrapati Bhavan show for all it was worth as top BJP leaders led by BJP President Nitin Gadkari accompanied the Karnataka assembly members who marched from Vijay Chowk to Rashtrapati Bhavan—a distance of about half a kilometre.

After meeting Patil, Gadkari told the media that they have proven their party’s support in front of the president, and so believed their demand for a recall was justified. Gadkari said a memorandum had explained to the president how the governor was acting in an unconstitutional manner. The BJP leaders also told Patil that the governor’s conduct was that of a ‘bully’ and ‘an agent of the Congress party.’

For anyone questioning why such a visible show of numbers was necessary, the delegation also made it clear that as per the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in the SR Bommai case, the floor test is the only way of determining a chief minister’s majority support.

Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief