Even by India’s fickle political standards, the Karnataka drama amounts to scrapping the bottom of the barrel. The fact that the Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP did not see eye to eye was clear from the beginning. Hence the ridiculous tantrums thrown by JD(S) chief H.D. Deve Gowda when the issue of handing over power to the BJP arose. The two parties had entered into an agreement to share office, the unspoken deal being to keep the Congress out of power in the state. For the BJP, the ascension to power of the B.S. Yeddyurappa government signalled the first-ever BJP government in South India. The party’s efforts to make inroads south of the Vindhyas had not been successful until now but this unseemly betrayal by the JD(S) could well give the party a shot in the arm.
Earlier Mr Deve Gowda had made a big issue of his son H.D. Kumaraswamy throwing in his lot with the ‘communal’ BJP. But, sooner rather than later, father and son seemingly reconciled to this power-sharing arrangement that left many political experts puzzled. Now, it turns out that Mr Gowda Sr is not so much unsettled by the BJP’s non-secular credentials as its unwillingness to hand over two lucrative portfolios to his party. In addition, the patriarch wanted the dismissal of former Tourism Minister B. Sriramulu who had levelled a murder charge against Mr Kumaraswamy. This will do nothing to add to the lustre of the JD(S) and makes the possibility of a third front ever more distant. In indulging in such petty antics, Mr Gowda has handed over the sympathy vote to the BJP. It is now clear that his prime concern is that the BJP does not go into the next assembly elections while in office. His party’s chances would have been enhanced had he stuck to his side of the bargain and let the BJP government run its course.
Mr Deve Gowda is being shortsighted here. The way ahead in politics appears to be through coalitions. The JD(S) on its own can never hope to be a national presence without the support of larger parties. Mr Deve Gowda has curtailed his party’s growth prospects by his churlish behaviour. The spell of President’s Rule ahead should give him and his partymen some time to contemplate on a wiser course of action.