The Politics of Last Resort

The recent assembly elections in Karnataka presented yet another display of resort politics, of elected politicians being herded off to swanky resorts to isolate them from the attention of opposing parties and prevent them from defecting. This charade, though common, never fails to make for a viewing that is both amusing and cringe-inducing. It also struck me as a uniquely Indian phenomenon. Until, that is, I came across this incident that happened in the US a few years ago.

The facts are reminiscent of a Hollywood caper. In 2003, after Republicans in Texas tried to take gerrymandering too far, more than fifty Democrats decided to abscond to ensure that a quorum would not be formed in the House. A hunt for the missing legislators soon followed, with a toll-free number set up and the Texas Rangers roped in. Finally, in a hilarious passage sprinkled with mundane details and deadpan in its delivery, the report says:

On Monday night, the delinquent Democrats were found at a Denny’s restaurant in Ardmore, Okla., 30 miles north of the Texas border. They were holed up at a nearby Holiday Inn, where they said they were discussing strategy.

It is fascinating to see political actors displaying such similar behaviour, of bunching together and jumping ship, in two very different jurisdictions. The US case also shows that this may even be necessary at times, if it is done for a just cause and where no other alternatives are available. Finding a case like that in India would go some way towards tempering the disappointment brought by the current version of resort politics in the country.

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