There is wide speculation in political circles that the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in Karnataka, headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy, on account of several reasons, may not last beyond October. The Chief Minister, on his part, has tried to play down differences with his alliance partner despite the troubled relationship that has come to the fore during the past few months. Several dissidents have expressed their resentment at not being included in the council of ministers and thus have indicated that they, in all probability, might be looking towards greener pastures.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which emerged as the single largest political entity obtaining 104 out of the 224 seats in the state, has also stepped up its efforts to woo the disgruntled MLAs in order to topple the government ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh so as to expose the brittle condition of the opposition alliances. The saffron brigade is pitted against the Congress in these states, in what would largely be straight one-on-one contests.
In fact, “Operation Destabilisation” of the state government commenced shortly after Kumaraswamy constituted his Cabinet, and the BJP, which had endured agonising embarrassment when its nominee B.S. Yeddyurappa resigned before facing the vote of confidence, vowed to retaliate. Sources said, that the BJP and the Sangh were in constant touch with around 18 MLAs, and have proffered allurements their way provided they switch sides.
The MLAs were persistently being persuaded to resign from their seats so that the total strength of the House comes down, paving way for the BJP to have a simple majority of its own. If the plan follows through, the strength of the House would be reduced from 224 to 206 and the government would be reduced to a minority. Thus, if the Governor, Vajubhai Vala, asks the Chief Minister to take a floor-test, in view of the changed situation, the government would fall.
Although the BJP has officially denied any move to entice the disenchanted MLAs, yet it is evident that the MLAs have been assured of ministerial berths in the new government, which would replace the present one, in the eventuality of it being voted out. The BJP would also press for a change of leader, and may be desirous of a new face in place of Yeddyurappa, who has been its mascot in Karnataka, and is the unchallenged leader of the dominant Lingayat community. Senior leaders maintain that the BJP central leadership was looking at the future beyond Yeddyurappa, and thus change was on the cards.
The plan to oust the incumbent government was also aimed at exposing chinks in opportunistic alliances, while simultaneously ensuring a gateway for the saffron brigade to be re-opened, once again, in the Southern states.
On his part, Kumaraswamy has been making concerted efforts to keep the flock together, thereby ruling out any danger to his government. However, continuous sneering barbs by his predecessor, and chairman of the Congress-JDS coordination committee, Siddaramaih, have exasperated him to the point of breaking down on TV channels while explaining his relationship with his ally. He has, time and again, reminded the Congress that the coalition was formed at the instance of Rahul Gandhi, who had given him a free hand to run the show for the full term. He clearly pointed out that Congress and JDS were looking forward to winning at least 20 to 25 seats in the state in the 2019 Parliamentary elections. The statement was also endorsed by senior Congress leader, D.K. Shivakumar, who was once a claimant for the CM’s position, but presently seems reconciled to play a secondary role due to the altered circumst\ances that have emerged, following the declaration of the Assembly results.
Kumaraswamy’s own health has also been a matter of concern, though his close associates have ruled out any change of leadership, stating that there was no cause of worry since he was totally fit to administer the state for his entire tenure. They dismissed Siddaramaiah’s criticism, on the ground that it was merely a ploy to play up and underline his own eminence. Within the JDS camp, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda has already ruled that there was no danger whatsoever to the state government and Kumaraswamy was in complete command. However, many of his followers have already implied that if health issues became an impediment, the Chief Minister’s elder brother, H.D. Revanna, who is a Public Works Minister and an MLA from Holenarasipur in Hassan district, may step in.
The bottom line is that politicking in Karnataka is likely to pick up in the coming two months and then political theatrics will be on full display.