Karnataka Elections 2018: When the going gets tough, politicians resort to 'Resort Politics'

|Thu May 17 00:40:06 IST 2018
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Bengaluru: After the state assembly elections in Karnataka  delivered a fractured mandate on May 15, 2018 with the BJP securing 104 seats followed by the Congress  with 78 and the JD(S) with 38 seats, INC announced that it will stake a claim to form a government in the state via a coalition that would propose JD(S) supremo HD Kumaraswamy  as their Chief Ministerial hopeful. After a day of political football that illustrates how the deep-end of the pool that is contemporary Indian politics can leave even the largest political entities in the country gasping for breath, the Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala invited the BJP  to form a government in the state directing them to prove their majority on the floor within 15 days. This prompted the Congress and JD(S) to send their MLAs packing to a resort in order to avoid them from defecting from their coalition.

The year was 1984 and regional parties had grown powerful enough to challenge India's largest political behemoth, The Indian National Congress in several states. It was then that actor-turned-politician NT Rama Rao faced an unprecedented threat after one of his protégés switched to Congress and Rao was asked to prove a majority in the state assembly. The leader of the Telegu Desam Party ( TDP ) then hid all of his newly-elected MLAs inside a studio in Chennai before flying them off to the national capital to furnish a proof of his majority of legislators. This was the first recorded instance of what political spectators deem 'resort politics'. 

Ironically, NTR's son-in-law and the current Chief Minister of the state, Chandrababu Naidu in 1995 used his own mentor's method to stash away 125 legislators at Hyderabad's Viceroy Hotel, thereby staging a coup which resulted in him taking the reins of the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. Resort politics then found a peckish patron in the state of Karnataka where it was used by the then Agriculture Minister S Bangarappa to overthrow Chief Minister Veerendra Patil in 1990.

Also Read: Karnataka Elections 2018: What is Horse-trading in politics - 'Chanakya Niti' or 'stealing the mandate'?

Karnataka has had a sprawling history with this method where elected legislators are shipped off to lavish resorts in luxury buses to stop them from being poached by political opponents as part of the 'Horse Trading' technique to from political majority in state assemblies.
All major political figures in Karnataka including Janata Dal (Secular) heavyweight HD Kumaraswamy and Bharatiya Janata Party's proposed Chief Ministerial candidate have indulged in resort politics in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

The practice gained such traction that Maharashtra Chief Minister at the time, Vilasrao Deshmukh sent his MLAs packing to a resort in Bengaluru until he won his trust vote in 2002. When state elections in Karnataka spewed a hung assembly in 2004, leaders of JD(S), Congress and BJP stealthily hid all of their elected representatives to resorts in and around Bengaluru as they raced with time to form the first coalition government in the state. Former Chief Minister of Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa repeated history by doing the same in 2008 when his party was three seats short of a majority in the state assembly.

Neighbouring states in the south also picked up on the trend when in 2017, AIADMK heavyweight TTV Dinakaran moved 19 of his MLAs to a resort in Puducherry in order to stop them from defecting to CM Palaniswami faction of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. A similar plan of action was adopted by the Congress in the same year at the time of the Gujarat state assembly elections when it flew 44 of its MLAs to the Eagleton Golf Resort in Bengaluru ahead of a Rajya Sabha poll in the state.

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