Kumaraswamy-led coalition in K'taka completes a year. Will it survive?
A year ago, on May 23, HD Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, while Congress leader G Parameswara took oath as his deputy. The biggest achievement of this government so far, perhaps, has been its survival.
After nearly 14 years, both the Congress and the JD(S) joined hands keep to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of power. They formed the government on a wafer-thin majority of 118 seats in the 224-member Assembly.
However, the bumpy ride seems far from over for the ruling coalition. Both parties, propelled by the fear of losing the majority mark in the state Assembly with constant nagging and backstabbing by some of its sitting MLAs, constantly kept working on a formula to keep the government afloat.
The results on Thursday (May 23) will decide the coalition government’s future. The exit polls, predicted that the BJP would win 20-22 seats. It has given BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa, who is keen to form the government in the state, hope.
Whether Kumaraswamy will survive another year remains a question.
The Karnataka coalition model was to pave the way for the mahagathbandan (grand alliance) at the national level. But the constant bickering from its partner and a few legislative Assembly members’ threats to quit and pull down the government, have cast a shadow on the coalition.
As early as three months after assuming office, the Chief Minister expressed his unhappiness about leading the government at a public gathering. “I’m swallowing my pain which is nothing more than poison. I am not happy with the situation,” Kumaraswamy had said.
The parties took time to come to an agreement on anything that they did together. From portfolio allocation to the seat sharing formula for the Lok Sabha election, long discussions involving the party high command preceded any decisions taken.
Further, the BJP added to the coalition’s woes by trying to lure disgruntled MLAs with plum posts and money through its ‘Operation Kamala’ plan. As the sitting MLAs threatened to shift loyalties, coalition partners camped in private resorts to convince them not to quit. The repeated confinement of MLAs indicated that the government had to literally stop them from selling themselves to their ideological opponent.
With former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, an ex-JD(S) leader, wielding more power in keeping the MLAs together, calls for making him the CM again grew within the Congress. While some of the MLAs closer to Siddaramaiah questioned Kumaraswamy’s performance, it gave room to the BJP to point fingers at coalition troubles. Upset with the Congress, Kumaraswamy threatened to quit in January.
At his rallies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi countered the coalition narrative, saying the government in Karnataka was helpless and everyone was interested in saving their seat than work for the people.
Taking potshot at the coalition, the PM had said, “Not even a single day passes where the country doesn’t see the natak (drama) of the (Karnataka) government.”
Modi mocked the Opposition’s effort to impose a similar model across the nation.
“For the sake of power, MLAs are fighting at hotels and breaking their heads. Several Congress leaders fought for their supremacy,” he said during an election rally.
Leaders from both parties held joint political rallies for the election and expressed confidence in retaining the government in Karnataka. However, the Lok Sabha results will pave way for a floor test that could decide the fate of the Kumaraswamy government.
Some BJP leaders were keen on re-polls than form the government with rebel Assembly members’ support. The BJP feels that if the party wins at the national level, people would vote it back to power in the state.
“Whatever be the results, it will change course of this coalition government. While the Congress may not be wiped out in the state or at the national level, the rise of BJP will halt its progress in Karnataka,” Narendra Pani, a political analyst from Bengaluru said.