he political circus in Karnataka is turning murkier and murkier. With chief minister HD Kumaraswamy (HDK) obtaining the resignation of all the ministers Monday, the stage is set for a complete reshuffle. Coming as it does after the resignation of 13 legislators from the assembly Saturday, the acts on the part of the chief minister may be termed as efforts to save his chair and carry on in office for more time. He is obviously resorting to every means available to placate the disgruntled MLAs, but whether this will help end the problems plaguing the JDS-Congress alliance in the state on a long-term basis is to be observed.
For one, it is not clear whether the Congress will allow the JDS to keep the CM post for a longer term. A proposal has come from within the JDS itself to allow the Congress – the larger partner – to hold the CM post if that would help end the present crisis. But, the chief minister himself has brushed aside such a proposal. By asking all ministers to resign, Kumaraswamy is making it clear that he aimed at a reshuffle and not an altogether new government under a new leader. The Congress party is not in a mood to seek the CM post for fear that this could only add to the present political turmoil in the state.
It would look like the CM is aiming at an expansion of the ministry by inclusion of more MLAs in his team. This, even as the present strength of the ministry is heavy at 34 – that is, 22 for the Congress and 12 for the JDS. If dissidents are given minister posts, that would also act as a lure for more MLAs to raise the banner of revolt in future, which could again cause political instability of the kind that Karnataka is witnessing now.
While the BJP is claiming that it is not involved in the present political manoeuvrings in the JDS-Congress alliance, it is clearly waiting in the wings. Reports that the group of MLAs who have quit their assembly membership were airlifted to Mumbai in an aircraft belonging to a BJP leader and kept in a “safe” environment in the western metropolis, expose the dirty games the BJP is playing from behind the scene. While the saffron party may not want to be seen messing up with the situation in the state, it is obvious that the present situation has arisen due to efforts of former BJP chief minister Yeddyurappa trying his hand at instability. The game started after the last Karnataka Assembly election threw up results where the BJP came as the single largest party but not with the required numbers to form the government. Extremely aware after the Goa fiasco, the Congress immediately tied up with HDK’s smaller outfit by offering the chief minister’s seat in an effort to keep the BJP away.
The present offensive by a section of the ruling party legislators from both the parties cannot be divorced from the Lok Sabha poll results which showed the dwindling fortunes of the Congress and the JDS in the state. The BJP won 26 of the 28 seats in Parliament, leaving one seat each to the Congress and the JDS.
While the Lok Sabha elections had no direct relations with the state government’s performance, it was abundantly clear that the 13-month rule of HD Kumaraswamy may have been impressive but not enough to hold back Lok Sabha seats. The allegations of corruption against the HDK government could not have been the sole reason for the defeat of the coalition candidates in the LS results. Kumaraswamy was facing intense pressure both from within his party as also from the Congress, and openly and repeatedly expressing his disgust over the way things were shaping up for the coalition government. The failure of the Congress leadership at the Centre and the lack of leadership in the Congress in the post-LS polls scenario further affected the stability and performance of the two-party alliance.
It is abundantly clear by now that Kumaraswamy cannot remain in saddle without making more compromises and without pleasing more and more legislators with goodies in the form of minister posts or other lures.
The situation can only get worse in the future as the BJP is bound to jack up its offensive against the coalition government. The national leadership of the BJP is undoubtedly clear that 2024 elections will be extremely tough for the party. To retain a control over the country, the governments in the states will need to be with that party. While it was easy to strike understandings with some regional outfits such as the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa, the same may not apply to Trinamool in West Bengal or the coalition in Karnataka. Therefore, it is a compulsion for the BJP to ensure dismantling all state governments that do not fall in line.