In the pre-historic age, Karnataka was known as Karunadu, which means elevated land or high plateau. Before independence, Karnataka was distributed as 20 different administrations such as Mysore State, Madras Presidency, Bombay Presidency, Nizam State, Kodagu, Kolhapur, Sangli, Meeraj, etc. The handicaps & suffering of people were severe in those days. After independence, states were reorganized based on linguistic and other criteria. The Kannada-speaking population came together to form the present-day Karnataka under Mysore. The former Maharaja ruled the Mysore state as its governor till 1975. A Maratha king ruled the state in the Kannada region and conducted administration in Marathi, where no Kannada schools existed.
In other states, Kannada districts were few, and the Kannadigas were few in the minority; their sufferings were many. They had no share in development activities and no access to minimum facilities such as roads and bridges. The Kannadiga voice was considered the voice of wilderness, creating an intense yearning for Unification.
Dharwad became the centre of the Movement for Unification, with Shri Alur Venkataro’s brain behind it. Nine Unification conferences were held between 1926 and 1947 along with literary figures, Kannada newspapers & Kannada organizations working hard for unification.
In 1947, Karnataka came under five different administrations, i.e. Bombay, Madras, Kodagu, Mysuru, and Hyderabad states. Minor 15 princely states, such as Jamkhandi, Ramadurg, Mudhol, etc., were merged with the neighbouring districts soon after independence. The ‘Karnataka Ekikarana Maha Samiti’ was formed in 1947 which changed its name in 1952 as ‘Karnataka Ekikarana Sangha’ with S.Nijalingappa as the President.
The agitation continued further when in 1953, Andhra Pradesh was formed, and Ballari district was handed over to Mysuru state. Several political leaders, along with Shri S.Nijalingappa, propagated for the unification of Mysuru State. A major satyagraha was launched by the Akhanda Karnataka Rajya Nirmana Parishat in 1953, with Shri K.R. Karnath as its president. In December 1953, Fazl Ali Commission linguistically united Mysuru state, which came into existence on 1st November 1956 with Shri S.Nijalingippa as its Chief Minister. During Shri D.Devraja Ur’s regime, the state was renamed Karnataka on 1st November 1973 as the long-cherished desire of the Kannadigas.
Instability of Government since the 1970s
From 1970 to 2019, Karnataka has faced ten political crises, of which five of them happened between 2006 & 2019. The chronic political instability in Karnataka is primarily due to fractured mandates barring a few exceptions. Caste Differences and the firm footing of local leaders have made it difficult for one party to get a majority.
Shri Devaraj Urs, the architect of Smt. Indira Gandhi’s political resurrection after the emergency is the only Chief Minister of Karnataka who has finished a full five-year term and been re-elected. Here accounts the first case of Karnataka when the government collapsed due to MLA poaching. However, the equation between the two worsened on Shri Sanjay Gandhi’s return to Congress Party after the emergency.
This state of affairs led to the split of the Congress party into two, Congress (Indira) and Congress (Urs). With no vote of confidence with Congress (Indira), Congress (Urs) proved the majority and continued to hold its power with more MLAs. Despite that, a floor test was demanded by Congress (Indira) in 1980.
Chief Minister Shri Ur lost his power over the state after serving for 678 days and was replaced by Shri Gundu Rao, leader of Congress (Indira) and finished the remaining term. Henceforth, the first coalition government of Karnataka was formed in 1983 when the Janta Party joined hands with Kranti Raga (a party by Shri Devaraj Ur) and the BJP.
Shri Ramakrishna Hedge became the Chief Minister of the coalition government. During this time, an independent member of the assembly, Shri C Byre Gowda, accused Congress leader Shri Veerappa Moily of offering him two lakhs to abscond Congress (Indira). Intentionally, Shri Byre Gowda recorded the conversation on a walkman and produced the tapes as evidence. Although the case was later dismissed when an investigation was ordered into the matter as it could not verify the authenticity of the tape.
Further, in 1984, post-Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Congress won 24 out of 28 seats in Karnataka beside the sweep in General Elections under the Leadership of Rajiv Gandhi. Ramkrishna Hedge dissolved his government in 1984, taking responsibility for the loss and calling for fresh elections. Once more, in 1985, the people of Karnataka brought Janta Party into power (Hedge continued to be the Chief Minister) with a large majority who had earlier voted for Congress in the Parliamentary elections.
In Karnataka, during this time when Andhra Pradesh was caught in a political crisis, witnessed the first instance of resort politics. Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister Shri NT Rama Rao sought Shri Hedge’s help to save his government. Telugu Desam Party MLAs were taken from Karnataka to two resorts in Mysuru and Bengaluru. Shri Rama Rao later won the floor test. Several allegations of corruption were levelled against Shri Ramakrishna Hedge in 1988, which made him further resign as the state’s chief minister. Shri S R Bommai, the senior leader of the Janta Party who replaced Shri Ramakrishna Hedge, several political developments and the court case which followed became legal precedents for many other political crises in the country during his tenure.
After that, the Janta party merged with the Dal Party and formed Janta Dal Party in 1988. One of the legislators gave a letter of withdrawn support from the Karnataka government along with other 19 MLAs to the then governor of Karnataka, Shri P Venkatasubbaiah, and defected the party. The report was sent to the President, informing them that the Shri Bommai government does not have the required majority running the government. Not only this, but later on, seven MLAs distanced themselves from the letter, as a consequence of which Shri Bommai was given a chance to prove his majority. Still, the state governor dismissed Shri Bommai’s government, leading the way to the infamous SR Bommai vs Union Case.
Restrictions were spelt out by the Supreme Court to prevent the misuse of Article 356 of the constitution, which included mandating a floor test before dissolving the government & giving adequate time to the state before dissolving the government, among others.
Subsequently, after five years, on Thursday, 11 July, Congress legislators were seen whisking away MLA Shri D Sudhakar after submitting his resignation due to an ongoing political crisis. Shri Sudhakar later made an allegation that he was maltreated in the process. Janta Dal Party won the elections in 1994, and a meeting was called to choose the chief minister by the legislators. During the meeting, one of the party workers assaulted former Chief Minister Shri Ramakrishna Hedge with footwear. Shri Deve Gowda was elected as the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Fractured Mandate was again witnessed in 2004 after 1983. BJP emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka in the 2004 assembly elections with 79 seats. But then also, Congress and Janta Dal formed a coalition with Congress’s Shri Dharam Singh as the Chief Minister.
The coalition formed began to crumble down after 19 months due to several reasons. After 19 months of ruling, Janta Dal withdrew support from Congress, and within a few days, BJP & Janta Dal forged a new deal to form a new government.
The deal was done to share the chief ministership between Shri Kumaraswamy and Shri BS Yediyurappa. Shri Kumaraswamy refused to step down from the position, which forced Shri Yediyurappa and all his ministers to resign from the party on 5 October 2007. BJP formally withdrew support from the Kumaraswamy government.
President’s rule was declared in Karnataka until the Janta Dal & BJP decided to continue with the alliance with Shri Yeddyurappa as the Chief Minister sworn in on 12 November 2007, which lasted only for seven days before Janta Dal again withdrew its support. Two years later, Rebellion was staged against BS Yedyurappa by the BJP leader Jandardhana Reddy who made 43 MLAs resign. Yeddyurappa offered a compromise by offering MLA cabinet berths and refusing to accept resignations. A few months later, Shri Kumaraswamy was accused of bringing together dissident BJP MLAs, making 18 BJP MLAs withdraw from his government. Once more, after nine years, the 2018 assembly elections presented a fractured mandate. Again, BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, and Congress & Janta Dal Allied more often.
Despite that, the governor of Karnataka invited BJP to form the government with Shri BS Yeddyurappa to take an oath as a Chief Minister on 17th May. Meanwhile, Congress moved Supreme Court against the governor’s invitation to BJP.
On 19 May, Shri Yeddyurappa announced the floor and resigned.
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Author – Merlyn Malhotra
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