By Prarthana Mitra
Since the Karnataka elections culminated in a hung assembly and hurried post-poll alliances, Vajubhai Vala, the state’s honourable governor has been central to the electoral drama that unfolded over the last two days.
Vala on Wednesday chose to go ahead with BJP over the Congress-JD(S) alliance, the single largest party by public mandate over the largest overall majority, a verdict that was immediately challenged by the opposition and even taken to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in a historic midnight hearing refused to stay Vala’s invitation to BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa to form the government. Yeddyurappa was sworn in on Wednesday and now has a fortnight to prove a majority on the assembly floor.
The Karnataka showdown revealed that the Vala, an old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker and multiple-term minister in the Gujarat state cabinet held the only vote that counts.
All you need to know about Vajubhai Vala
80-year old Vala began his career when BJP was still called the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and has never failed to rise to the occasion to sacrifice if his party required. He is known for his decision to vacate his Rajkot seat for Narendra Modi to contest as Gujarat’s Chief Minister in 2001, and has been in the latter’s good books ever since.
Besides serving as a finance minister with a record presentation of 18 budgets, Vala has held important portfolios in the BJP government, including revenue minister, president of BJP’s Gujarat unit and speaker of the assembly. In return for holding the BJP fort, he was rewarded with an appointment as Karnataka’s governor by the Narendra Modi government in 2014, a move that many say has come in handy for Yeddyurappa in the current political scenario.
A great orator, with interesting anecdotes up his sleeve, his trademark Kathiawadi wit, and a self-effacing demeanour, Vala soon rose to a position of major influence in the state. However, as his business ventures grew, Vala has also been accused of unfairly profiting off of his political position.
Where does Vala’s loyalty reside?
As the entire political spectrum is torn between calling his choice unconstitutional, without political precedent, or reasoned and within his right, certain facts remain unchanged.
Firstly, as a governor of state, Vala’s duty lies choosing an option that eliminates all scope of horse-trading or poaching of MLAs. However, in the current scenario, BJP desperate to secure a majority they don’t have has reportedly begun to offer bribes, and Congress has reported several of their leaders missing. This not only suggests a complete abuse of the electoral machinery but in doing so, Modi has once again clearly abused the office of Governor, just like in Tamil Nadu.
Secondly, although it is in Vala’s plenary power to choose the more stable government, especially given Congress’ short-lived trysts with post-poll alliances in the past, Vala has not followed the precedents set by recent elections. In Goa, Manipur (as in Meghalaya and Bihar too), the single largest party was denied the chance to form a government, and in each case, BJP formed an alliance with a regional party to form a majority on the assembly floor.
The power to take this decision may also have presented Vala a chance for political revenge on JD(S) chief Deve Gowda, who had once dismissed a BJP-led government in Gujarat during his prime ministerial reign. Caught between loyalty and constitutional responsibility, Vala chose to go with the former and has in the process, become responsible for a gross democratic discrepancy. Vala now faces the consequences of his decision as Congress demands his recall from the gubernatorial office. That said, by delivering the largest southern state to the centre’s fold, Vala has proven once again that he is indispensable to the BJP.
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