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HT Editorial | The flawed Karnataka experiment

The JD(S)-Congress coalition is neither able to hold nor deliver

editorials Updated: Jul 08, 2019 20:34 IST
Hindustan Times
The roots of the Karnataka crisis lie in the fractured mandate of 2018. Former CM Siddaramaiah has not made peace with his loss of power. (PTI)

The Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government in Karnataka is facing a crisis, yet again. The script is familiar but the scale is more intense. Over a dozen Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) -- primarily from the Congress -- have sent in their letters of resignation to the Speaker. The coalition enjoyed a thin majority in the House. If the resignations are accepted, the strength of the 224-member assembly will dip. Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s government may lose its majority. And the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could well stake claim to form the government. To avert such a scenario, all ministers put in their papers on Monday afternoon, to be able to create the space for a reshuffle and win the dissidents back in exchange for portfolios.

The roots of the Karnataka crisis lie in the fractured mandate of 2018. The BJP was the single largest party but did not have a majority on its own. It was, on somewhat questionable grounds, invited to provide its majority in the house, but failed to do so. The Congress and JD(S), which had fought bitterly in the polls, came together and crossed the halfway mark. Despite being the bigger party, the Congress offered leadership to Kumaraswamy to be able to muster the numbers and prevent the JD(S) from crossing over to the BJP. The alliance was, therefore, born not out of a common vision for the future, but a solely negative outlook (stopping the BJP), and transactional approach (sharing perks of office).

This was bound to generate conflict, and so it did, at multiple levels. First, there is a sharp division within the Congress itself and factional battles overwhelm party interest. Former CM Siddaramaiah has not made peace with his loss of power. Then, there is a battle between the Congress and JD(S), which is often manifested in Kumaraswamy breaking down in public and blaming his ally for his troubles. The BJP has been proactive too -- seeking to win over MLAs through a range of tools. The Lok Sabha results in the state, which saw the BJP sweep, shook the foundations of the ruling alliance further. Put it all together, and it is clear that Bengaluru is right now witnessing a deeply cynical political game in which legislators are shifting positions based on who can offer a better deal. Irrespective of whether the government stays or not, the JD(S)-Congress experiment has shown that a coalition based only on power-sharing, with weak leadership, and without a vision cannot hold or deliver effectively.

First Published: Jul 08, 2019 19:51 IST