How soon will the axe fall on HD Kumaraswamy — once he becomes the new Chief Minister of the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress regime — is to be seen
In the evening of May 19, Congress was celebrating on the streets. It would appear that the party had achieved the rare feat (by its standards) of winning an election. But no, it was rejoicing over the resignation of Chief Minister of Karnataka and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader BS Yeddyurappa ahead of the trust vote. It had paved the way for the Congress to return to power in the State despite being battered in the Assembly election. It didn’t matter to the leaders of the Congress that they were doing so by mocking the public mandate. They were happy that they would be pulling the strings once again, this time by propping up a Government led by a Chief Minister whose own party, the Janata Dal (Secular), has less than 40 seats in a House of 224.
The desire to somehow keep the BJP away from power eventually triumphed over fair play and respect for the people’s mandate
It is a situation the Congress loves. It had made Charan Singh the Prime Minister after engineering the downfall of the Janata Party regime, and then unceremoniously pulled him down. It had similarly plotted to the fall of the Chandra Shekhar Government in New Delhi. It had caused the demise of the IK Gujral dispensation after helping him to the post of the Prime Minister. Indeed, the Congress had also humiliated Deve Gowda, the Janata Dal (Secular) supremo today, in a similar fashion. How soon will the axe fall on HD Kumaraswamy — once he becomes the new Chief Minister of the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress regime — is to be seen.
The strange fact is that Deve Gowda’s party, despite being aware of the Congress’s track record, has fallen for the bait. Within hours of the election result, which dealt a resounding defeat for the Congress and left the Janata Dal (Secular) holding on to its limited bastion in the State and placed it at a distant third, Deve Gowda succumbed to the charms of the Congress. It allowed itself to be persuaded by the Congress’s offer of chief ministership to HD Kumaraswamy, the party supremo’s son. The two parties came together and by virtue of the combined numbers, claimed to represent the collective will of the people of the State. That they were lying is something they were fully aware of. This was not the collective will of the people because both the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) had contested against each other.
The desire to somehow keep the BJP away from power eventually triumphed over fair play and respect for the people’s mandate. The Congress’s desperation was at least understandable: The electoral setback in Karnataka had come as a massive humiliation for the party, which had been losing one State after another since 2014. Thus it had to retain Karnataka by hook or by crook. But there was no compelling reason for the Janata Dal (Secular) to join hands with the loser. Since the BJP had fallen just eight seats short of the halfway mark, Deve Gowda’s party could have extended support to the BJP which had secured the mandate of the voters at least more comprehensively than the Congress had. There would have been no public outrage over the decision. But Kumaraswamy would not have been the Chief Minister — he would have got the deputy chief ministership position. Clearly then, what made the Janata Dal (Secular) go with the Congress was the lure of chief ministership.
Congress remains a loser in the eyes of the public and is still electorally suspect as far as various regional satraps are concerned.
The longevity of the new alliance is already being speculated. The coalition is unnatural and full of contradictions. Frictions are bound to occur sooner than later, and there is every possibility that the Congress will end up pulling the rug from under Kumaraswamy’s feet. The JD (S) must also factor in the coming Lok Sabha election. Will the people of Karnataka not take this manipulation into account? But then neither Deve Gowda’s party nor the Congress is presently concerned by such possibilities. They wanted to thwart the BJP, and they have managed it for now.
The narrative of the success of a ‘united opposition’ in taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, which will surely be peddled now, does not apply to the Karnataka development. Here, the parties united after the election result. Perhaps this is how the non-NDA parties view the future: Fight separately and even against one another, and then come together after the outcome is known, to deny power to the BJP. Whatever the case may be, the Congress is certainly not in a pole position even after the Karnataka coup. It remains a loser in the eyes of the public and is still electorally suspect as far as various regional satraps are concerned. But then, it has been reduced to such a state that the best it can hope for is to shine in reflected glory.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.