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The delay in forming the cabinet in Karnataka is inexcusable

The Congress and the JD(S) are hardening their stand on ‘lucrative’ portfolios, which will be important as the general elections are just a year away

editorials Updated: May 31, 2018 17:24 IST
Hindustan Times
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy (right) with AICC president Rahul Gandhi(second from left), Bengaluru, May 23, 2018(PTI)

It has been 10 days since the new Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government headed by HD Kumaraswamy assumed office in Karnataka, amid the presence of a galaxy of Opposition leaders. The new partners, who displayed much bonhomie till the run-up to the government formation, have subsequently been involved in bitter infighting. Before the coalition was put in place, promises were made about quickly putting together a co-ordination committee, drawing up a common minimum programme (CMP) and forming a cabinet in an equitable power-sharing deal, reflecting the actual strength of the parties. But none of those promises have been kept so far. The partners can’t seem to agree on the CMP. Mr Kumaraswamy is ambivalent on whether some of the populist programmes of the previous regime will be continued or dropped.

On cabinet formation, the less said, the better. Both parties are hardening their stand on lucrative portfolios, which will be important as the general elections are just a year away. The CM, who is keen on taking credit for waiving farm loans, does not want to give up the finance portfolio. The Congress is equally adamant that it will not let the JD(S) walk away with all the credit and votes which may accrue and is digging its heels in. The JD(S) is insistent that it will not part with public works department and energy. These departments have large budgets and can be used for populist programmes. It is also saying that while it might agree to part with the home portfolio, it wants to retain the intelligence wing under the chief minister.

The Congress, which has a vast number of MLAs to satisfy, is in a greater dilemma. Unlike the JD(S), which is mainly a south Karnataka and Vokkaliga-dominated party, the Congress is a bigger and broader umbrella of diverse constituents, all of whom need to be kept happy. The Congress has also been handicapped by the absence of its party president, Rahul Gandhi, from the country. He is crucial to any final decisions, unlike the JD(S), where the writ of the Gowda family is enough. The delay in the cabinet formation has meant that chinks in the coalition arrangement are widening and the patience of the state’s citizens is being tested. The coalition partners need to get their act together quickly if they don’t want to attract more criticism for the delay and risk more fault lines appearing in the alliance.

First Published: May 31, 2018 17:10 IST