The stability of the shotgun alliance between the Janta Dal (S) and the Congress Party in Karnataka is already in question. Pressures from within, rather than without, might pull down the H D Kumaraswamy Government sooner than later. Initially, at the time of the ministry making, MLAs belonging to the two parties who failed to get a berth in the ministry were openly on the warpath. A number of disgruntled MLAs belonging to the Congress Party not only boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of the ministers but they openly raised the banner of revolt.
Their number was said to be fourteen from the Congress Party alone. Among them was R H Patil, the foremost leader of the Lingayatas in the Congress who had spearheaded the controversial move to have them declared as a separate religion. He is said to be still sulking. A couple of Muslim MLAs of the party, too, were aggrieved at not being made ministers. In fact, one of the Muslim MLAs from the Congress component who was inducted traded verbal abuse with one of his senior colleagues who had failed to make the grade. While all this was going on, Kumaraswamy first tried to use his persuasive skills to try and bring round the disgruntled MLAs belonging to the Congress, but when they rudely rebuffed him, he publicly asserted that it was not his job to keep the Congress MLAs in check.
Despite making trips to Delhi to plead their case for ministerships before the party president Rahul Gandhi, there was no end to the simmering crisis in the Bengaluru alliance. Yet, while these MLAs continue to sulk, the biggest threat is posed by the former Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah. He might have felt obliged to go along with the decision of Rahul Gandhi to make Kumaraswamy chief minister in order to prevent the BJP from annexing power after no party was able to win a clear majority in the recent Assembly poll, but his antipathy towards the JD(S) remains undiminished. It is notable that he had quit the JD(S) after being a loyal number two to its leader and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda only when the latter preferred his second son for the chief minister’s post.
He joined the Congress and was able to attain his chief ministerial ambition. But now the altered political circumstances oblige him to support Kumaraswamy at the head of a JD(S)-Congress shotgun coalition. After lying low for a couple of weeks, though the party leadership has offered him the sop of the chairmanship of the coalition’s coordination committee, Siddaramaiah has bared his fangs. A couple of days ago, a video surfaced which depicted him doubting the longevity of the Kumaraswamy government. If that was not enough, from his current abode in a naturopathy institute, yet another video has confirmed that the former Congress chief minister remains un-reconciled to the new power-sharing arrangement. Ostensibly, Siddaramaiah is annoyed that Kumaraswamy seeks to junk his budget and present a fresh one when the Assembly meets for its first regular session early next month.
Of course, there is inequity and injustice that the leader of a group with half the strength of the other alliance partner should head the State government. It is virtually the case of the tail wagging the dog. But then, Kumaraswamy would not have allied with the Congress without being offered the chief ministership. Besides, Kumaraswamy holds a strong pair of cards, with the BJP waiting in the wings to offer him chief ministership should the Congress dissidents pull the rug from under his feet. In other words, Kumaraswamy , though the smallest of the three groups in the Assembly, is sitting pretty. But for the central leadership of the Congress party the stakes are very high that he somehow continues as CM till after the next parliamentary election. Even Siddaramaiah in the second video is heard telling his interlocutor that Kumaraswamy may last till the 2019 Lok Sabha poll on the understanding that his fall will prove a PR disaster for the on-going efforts of the opposition groups to form an all-embracing Mahagathbandhan against the BJP. Precisely for that reason, the BJP, too, will redouble its efforts to pull down the Kumaraswamy government much ahead of the parliamentary poll. In short, so long as the new Karnataka government lives, it will sit on hot coals, never knowing who will push it in the furnace of inter and intra-party fires and snuff out its life. Under these fickle conditions, what good it will be able to do for the people of the State remains in doubt.