The political crisis in Karnataka, which has shaken the foundations of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in the state, has been born of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)’s sweeping victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The ruling alliance’s defeat in all but two of the 28 parliamentary seats underscored a sea change in popular mood from last year’s assembly elections, which threw up a hung House. The Congress-JD(S) post-poll coalition seemed a masterstroke, which it perhaps was, in the run-up to the battle for power at the Centre between the BJP and its opponents.
The tie-up was celebrated, despite its share of manufacturing defects: the alliance partner’s turf war in south Karnataka; clashing ambitions of individual leaders; and their grossly incompatible temperaments.
The prime example of it all was former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s disdain for the Deve Gowda clan. Discomfited by the arrangement in which the CM’s office went to the junior partner at the expense of his incumbency, Siddaramaiah couldn’t reconcile to HD Kumaraswamy getting the post. Compared to the Congress’s 80, the JD(S) had just 37 legislators.
Siddaramaiah refused to see the writing on the wall even after the Lok Sabha debacle when the BJP won 25 of the 28 seats in the state.
People in the know say that the Cabinet overhaul now offered as a compromise to the rebels was suggested soon after the poll outcome. But the former CM persisted with his obstructionism.
The antipathy between Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah goes back to 2007. That was when Deve Gowda made his son the CM in the JD(S)-BJP coalition in which the alliance partners had divided power by rotating chief ministers, each with a stint of 20 months.
So upset was Siddaramaiah, a prominent Kuruba community leader, on being denied his weightier claim that he walked out of the JD (S) to launch AHINDA, a popular movement of the minorities, backwards and Dalits. The platform earned him the gravitas that prompted the Congress to woo him for a pivotal role.
In the meanwhile, the JD(S) broke ties with the BJP on taking its 20-month turn in the CM’s office. The 2008 polls saw the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa riding on a sympathy vote to power as a Lingayat strongman betrayed by the state’s foremost Vokkaliga family.
In 2013, Siddaramaiah got the office he coveted. The wheel has since come full circle with his bête noire again the CM at his expense.
Such a clash of ambition and history of discord prevented the coalition partners from crafting on the ground the social accord — between their respective vote bases — that would’ve ensured the longevity of their unlikely political partnership. The result: they failed in the very first electoral test they faced in tandem after the 2018 tactical pact.
Both parties have paid a heavy price for the rickety regime they ran after coming together. Like titans falling in their own coliseums, the Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge lost the first popular battle of his political life in Gulbarga with Deve Gowda, the JD(S) patriarch, going down in Tumkur in south Karnataka.
The denouement they’ve faced isn’t dissimilar from the recently failed Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance — or the fate of Mayawati’s coalition regime with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s. In each of these cases, political experiments forced from the top did not find popular endorsement.
The real blow to the Karnataka joint venture is its rout in the Lok Sabha elections. No matter what transpires in the assembly, the electorate has delivered its no-confidence in the regime that stumbled from one crisis to another since its birth over a year ago.
From all available evidence, the existing assembly cannot conceive or deliver a stable regime. The BJP may deny its intent to hold fresh polls. But the logjam cannot be broken without reverting to the electorate.
Jul 11, 2019 05:47 IST