Resort-politics is a curiously Indian phenomenon. When there is a threat that a rival party will make Gaya Rams of your faithful—usually right before a test of strength on the floor of a state Assembly—your last resort is, well, a resort. Herd your flock, tired as it is from the rigours of politics, to a remote luxury getaway minus phones and internet, and it can’t yield to temptation—or horse-trading, in political parlance.
House-arrest, albeit in an idyllic setting, becomes a time-honoured strategy. Thus, with a two-way (Congress-JD(S) and BJP) scramble for power in Karnataka that has just returned a split verdict, it isn’t surprising that resort politics is back on centre stage. The Congress lot are camped in a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru, while the JD(S) lot are living it up in a Bengaluru hotel.
Meanwhile, a BJP government has been sworn-in, with BS Yeddyurappa as the Chief Minister. Given that the BJP doesn’t have the required simple majority, and has been given 15 days to muster the strength, it looks like the Congress and JD(S) MLAs are in for an extended ‘vacation’.
As it became clear that legislator-poaching could commence, the Kerala government’s tourism department made a pitch to the newly minted Karnataka MLAs, on Twitter no less: “After the rough and tumble of the #KarnatakaVerdict, we invite all the MLAs to unwind at the safe & beautiful resorts of God’s Own Country…”, tweeted @KeralaTourism.
Whether Left-ruled Kerala had business in mind, or the tweet was just sarcasm, presupposing a lack of ethics in the Left’s political rivals, it is hard to say. The tweet, nevertheless, was soon deleted. Resort politics, many would say, has its birth in Karnataka: In 1984, Telugu Desam Party leader NT Rama Rao hurried to Karnataka with his MLAs to stall a splitting of the party.
Yeddyurappa is something of a veteran-in 2011, he set camp with his loyal MLAs in a resort, demanding that Sadananda Gowda be made Karnataka CM instead of Jagdish Shettar, and in 2012, did the same to get Gowda ousted. JD(S) has done it, as has Congress, during last year’s Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat.
George Bernard Shaw’s quote about politics being the last resort of scoundrels may or may not hold, but as things stand, resorts are literally the last refuge for politics in Karnataka.