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Down South

Karnataka: Opinion 
brigade fights 
facts again 
 
By Vivek Sharma
 
 

Indian politics is principally a recurring tussle between opinionated interpretations and facts. Just go down history lane and you will come to know that the phenomenon is as eternal as the battle between the good and the evil, the asuras and the devatas and God and the devil!
Believe it or not! It is a fact. Those who wield opinionated interpretations are more aggressive, they largely promote arguments, indulge in  protests and hurling allegations. Whereas those who go by the facts are silent and prevailing. However, I must make it clear that no one political outfit can be termed as having a factual or an opinionated position always. They keep changing the roles. 
The media, as such, is carried away by the winds of opinions and ends up creating more chaos instead of clarity in the minds of the lay reader, who still holds media as a fact-dispensing machine. It is not so. Media too actively participates in the battle between the opinionated arguments and the facts. This has been my observation since 30 years of my journalistic  career. 
 
Karnataka and the old battle 
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as a single party with 104 seats, just short of eight heads to smoothly form the government on its own. The Congress got 78 and the JDS only 37 seats. This triggers a war between the opinionated side and the factual side. Let’s see how.
Majority of politicians, the Congress, the JDS and their supporters, are quoting the Bommai case judgement of the Supreme Court in the matter and arguing that the parties with the numbers should first be invited by Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala and not the BJP. This is the opinion and not the fact. 
The fact is that the Supreme Court in its landmark Bommai case judgement in 1994 had clearly mentioned that Governor’s discretion holds supreme. One cannot initiate judicial action against him until his bias or favour is proven. But, the Congress and the JDS leaders knocked the Supreme Court door at the stroke of midnight on May 16-17, 2018 to stop BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa’s oath-taking the next morning. However, they got snubbed by the Supreme Court bench, which held that the governor can call any party in such situations which he feels confident in to prove the majority on the floor of the house. 
 
What Bommai Judgement says
 
Para 263 says, “The floor test may be one consideration which the Governor  may keep in view. But, whether or not to resort to it would depend on prevailing situation….It is not possible to formulate or comprehend a set of rules for the exercise of the power by the Governor to conduct the floor-test. The Governor should be left  free to deal with the situation according to this best judgement keeping in view the Constitution and the conventions of the parliamentary system of government.” The same para also explains the often misquoted and misargued Sarkaria Commission and Rajamannar Commission’s recommendation for the floor test and says, “It could only mean that that is a consideration which must cross the mind of the Governor. It would be suffice to say that the Governor should be alive to the situation but he would be the sole judge on the question whether or not conditions are conducive to resort to floor test.” What wrong did Karnataka governor do by calling the BJP to stand the floor test? 
 
In Para 395, the judgement affirms the need for a floor test in the case of the former chief minister of Karnataka SR Bommai, who had lost support of the legislators and the Governor was duly convinced of the fact and had reported it to the President of India. The judgement says, “The loss of the confidence of the house was an objective fact, which could have been demonstrated, one way or the other, on the floor of the house.” 
 
Bommai judgement’s master stroke
 
In Para 396, the judgment, however, clarifies and says, “ We make it clear that what we have said above is confined to a situation where the incumbent chief minister is alleged to have lost the majority support or the confidence of the house. It is not relevant to a situation arising after a general election where the Governor has to invite the leader of the party commanding majority in the house or the single largest party/group to form the government. We express no opinion regarding such a situation.”
 
This para settles once for all the controversy and the controversial references to the Bommai case judgement which are often and frequently made to hoodwink gullible voters and opinionate them by faking facts. 
In common parlance, this is called rumour-mongering. That is what the opinionated side does. They rush to the Supreme Court and get a rebuttal from there too. This is what happened in the Goa case and the same happened now in the case of the Karnataka hung assembly. In both the cases, the Supreme Court more or less zeroed in on the floor test to settle the controversy as to which party has the majority. At the same time, both the judgments don’t question the power of the Governor to  use his discretion. Para 263 of the Bommai judgement also corroborates that. Whatever be the case, Governor is the only person authorised to exercise his discretion in the matters related to inviting the party to form the government. 
 
Silly opinions
 
‘Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala is a hardcore RSS man. He would always take decision in favour of the BJP.’ This is an opinion, which has been widely and aggressively circulated by a desperate Congress to influence people more than convey and uphold the facts. The factual situation is that it is within the Governor’s constitutional right, defined in Para 263 and the discretionary powers of the Governor enshrined in the Constitution of India. Just have a look. Subsections a, b and c are more relevant to the above situation.
 
5. Discretionary Powers:
The Governor can use these powers:
a) If no party gets an absolute majority, the Governor can use his discretion in the selection of the Chief Minister;
b) During an emergency he can override the advice of the council of ministers. At such times, he acts as an agent of the President and becomes the real ruler of the state;
c) He uses his direction in submitting a report to the President regarding the affairs of the state; and
d) He can withhold his assent to a bill and send it to the President for his approval.
 
 
Allegations and justice system
 
You can move the Supreme Court if you have concrete proofs to substantiate that the Governor is favouring a party. In the above case Governor Vala has invited the Bharatiya Janata Party and asked it to prove its majority on the floor of the house within 15 days. Well, isn’t it well within the rights of the Governor? It is and hence you can’t question it. What if the BJP fails to prove its majority? The Governor may then call the group with a majority numbers, if he deems fit, or report his dissatisfaction to the President of India and ask for the President’s rule. 
Remember! Facts may be blurred by the strong winds of opinion, but they prevail in the end. Therefore, whenever you have a doubt in such matters, believe somewhere you have lack of knowledge about the facts and are misled by an opinion. Revise your facts and come out of it instead of adding your voice to the clamour. 
 
Wrong media trend
 
Journalists too are to be blamed for raising the dust in such matters. There are two reasons behind it. (1) They themselves are ill-informed (2) They are just doing what they have been told by their corporate bosses.
However, I must say that even the editors sitting in top chairs aren’t aware of such facts and hence they often become part of the disinformation campaign led by the opinionated side.  This is a wrong trend and must be firmly discouraged. I have also observed that the people who haven’t written a word in their career are holding top journalistic positions—-they are opinion makers. In fact, the need of the hour is to run such egg heads through a rigorous general knowledge test, make them write and adjudge their skill level to know whether they are real journalists or just power grabbers who have now become a liability. Unless such people are shown the gates, one cannot have a healthy crop of journalists in our country. 
 
 

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