It may be politically expedient for Congress & JD(S) to accuse BJP of buying off their legislators, but some of the statements the two parties have made are laughable.
The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are crying themselves hoarse that the BJP is working to break the alliance government in Karnataka by luring MLAs away from the coalition. The BJP is a political party and in the opposition in the state. Obviously, it would want the rival partnership to derail so that it can hopefully fill the vacuum. It is possible that the BJP is seeking to derive some advantage from the chaos that has gripped the alliance regime in the state. But it is not responsible for the crisis that has engulfed the government; all it has been doing is to exploit the situation.
The problems for the Congress-JD (S) coalition began from the time the HD Kumaraswamy government was formed nearly a year ago — and they were internally generated. Within days of the alliance coming to power, senior Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara remarked that there was nothing to confirm that Kumaraswamy, who belongs to the JD (S), would be Chief Minister for the entire five-year term. Weeks later, Kumaraswamy appeared in the public, wiping off tears and claiming that he had been consuming the poison of alliance. Days later, he remarked that he had been reduced to being a clerk. Off and on, he said he did not wish to continue in his post. He was clearly not being able to manage the pulls and pressures from the Congress, his new ally. A few local Congress leaders rubbed it in by declaring that Siddaramaiah was the super Chief Minister as far as they were concerned.
The bare fact is that, ever since Siddaramaiah lost his chief ministership, he and his camp followers have been working internally to undermine Kumaraswamy’s stature.
Meanwhile, voices of discontent had begun to rise from within the alliance, both from the JD (S) and the Congress camps. MLAs and Ministers were at a loss to understand as to how to manage the conflicts since these were impacting their own performance and making it difficult for them to convince their constituents that they were delivering on the promises they had made to the people. There was no doubt left in anybody’s mind that the alliance was not working, that cracks had begun to appear, and that the edifice could collapse sooner than later.
Then came the 2019 Lok Sabha election, and the fragility of the coalition was exposed in tragic ways for the state’s ruling partners. the Congress-JD (S) performed poorly, with even the JD (S) heavyweight and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda getting defeated. Most analysts believed that the Lok Sabha loss would hasten the demise of the alliance — and they were right. A bunch of legislators from the two ruling parties, who were sitting on the fence, decided to take the plunge and rebel. They put in their resignations as legislators. This time, they totalled 14 at last count, and the number was enough to potentially topple the government.
The crisis has hit the Congress in the face when it is virtually headless — with attempts of senior Congress leaders to dissuade Rahul Gandhi from quitting as party president having failed. It stumped the JD (S) at a time when Kumaraswamy was abroad, and the state party chief was out of Karnataka. Out of desperation, the tottering alliance has resorted to technicalities — the Speaker has refused to accept the resignations and is demanding that the rebel MLAs meet him personally and submit their resignations, and has said that he would decide on the matter only if that happens.
Many possibilities are being explored: Disqualification of the rebel legislators under the anti-defection Act is one such avenue. The other is to win back the loyalty of at least enough of the rebels to numerically save the regime. All Ministers of the state regime have already put in their papers, thus creating vacancies to accommodate those MLAs who re willing to return. But the rebels from the ruling combine have been firm — at least till the time of writing — on their decision to quit and have said that no amount of threats (by way of disqualification etc) would make them capitulate.
It may be politically expedient for the Congress and the JD (S) to accuse the BJP of buying off their legislators, but some of the statements the two parties have made are laughable. They have claimed, for instance, that the BJP was seeking to subvert the democratic mandate in Karnataka. The people’s mandate in the last Assembly election resulted in a hung House, with the BJP having the largest number of seats, followed by the Congress and then the JD (S). The Congress and the JD (S) joined hands to keep the BJP out, and Kumaraswamy, whose JD (S) had less than 20 per cent of seats in the House and less than 20 per cent of the total votes polled, was made the Chief Minister. The public mandate had not been for the Congress-JD (S) combine.
It was not the BJP which had made Kumaraswamy shed tears in public; it was not the BJP the Chief Minister was referring to when he said that he had swallowed the poison of coalition; it was not the BJP which compelled him to remark that he had become a clerk rather than a Chief Minister. The bare fact is that, ever since Siddaramaiah lost his chief ministership, he and his camp followers have been working internally to undermine Kumaraswamy’s stature. While, for the sake of public consumption, he may be batting for Kumaraswamy in this hour of crisis, the fact is that there could be no happier person than Siddaramaiah today. He must be hoping that Kumaraswamy will see the writing on the wall and quit so that he can move in and convince the rebels to return under his leadership.
But as these games play on at the cost of governance, the people of Karnataka have been at the receiving end. Perhaps this is the price one pays for voting in a hung House.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.