From swearing by secular politics to plunging into the politics of convenience and then diving back again into the secular fold, the ruling Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka has demonstrated an amazing capacity for political somersaults within a span of 20 months. As a result, its coalition partner the BJP, finds itself stranded at the threshold of the chief minister's office with the door firmly barred, despite the fact that it won the largest single tally - 79 out of 224 - of seats in the last 2004 assembly elections.
The JD (S) initially formed an alliance with the Congress under chief minister N. Dharam Singh - from May 2004-January 2006 - but pulled out to knit another with the BJP in February. Now the alliance with the BJP has fallen through too. In the slugfest of words between the two parties that has only just begun and is bound to get much more bitter in the coming days, two brothers from Bellary, both leading lights of the state BJP, have been targeted as the villians by the JD(S). In his speech chief minister Kumaraswamy repeatedly referred to Karunakara Reddy MP, and his sibling, Janardhana Reddy, MLC. "They have launched a smear campaign against our family," he thundered. "They have been saying they will perform the funeral rites of everyone in our family. Should we give them power to see them perform our funeral rites?"
One of the key reasons for the souring of relations between the BJP and JD(S) has been the tussle between Deve Gowda's family and the two brothers over rights to the iron ore mines in Bellary. It was this fight which prompted former tourism minister B Sriramulu, a friend of the Reddy clan, to charge Kumaraswamy with trying to get him murdered.
BJP leader and deputy chief minister Yediyurappa kept his cool despite the JD(S)'s accusations, some of which were even hurled at him. He was accused of supporting Janardhan Reddy when the latter alleged that Kumaraswamy and other JD (S) ministers had pocketed a bribe of Rs 150 crore from owners of illegal mines in Bellary. "I have never violated the coalition dharma," he said on Thursday. "I have waited patiently for Kumaraswamy to keep his word and make way for me to takeover as chief minister.
Though the BJP and JD(S) set up a coordination committee to thrash out differences once the government was formed, its meetings were far too few. More, often assurances given by JD(S) leaders at these meetings were never actually implemented. BJP ministers reveal privately that they often kept in the dark about important decisions.