Kumaraswamy takes oath as Karnataka chief minister, Opposition steals show
The show of unity in Karnataka comes amid increasing momentum of talks and efforts to build a front to take on the BJP, now clearly in pole position in Indian politics.Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 23, 2018 22:51 IST
Opposition parties, which have had little reason to cheer since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started dominating national and regional elections in 2013 (the party-led National Democratic Alliance, or NDA, has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha and it is in power, solely or with partners, in 20 of India’s 29 states) came together to celebrate the swearing-in of Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) and his JD(S)-Congress government on Wednesday.
Their show of unity comes amid increasing momentum of talks and efforts to build a front to take on the BJP, now clearly in pole position in Indian politics.
Joining Kumaraswamy, his father and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, who is clearly relishing his second coming as paterfamilias of the opposition, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, and his mother, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi ,were a clutch of other leaders.
Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, both from Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the most representatives to the Lok Sabha, were there (the two are already believed to have sewn up an alliance). Mayawati’s party was the JD(S) partner in the Karnataka elections and even won one seat.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who has been working to build a so-called federal front, was in attendance, as was Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra CM N Chandrababu Naidu.
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav, and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Ajit Singh were there. And Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India, Marxist, which played a seminal role in the creation of the UPA back in 2004, was present.
As much as they were there to celebrate the JD(S)-Congress triumph — not as much in the polls as in smart post-poll maneuvering – the leaders were also there to cock a snook at their common enemy, the BJP.
The leaders talked, in groups small and large before, during, and after the function in Bengaluru on a rainy day, although few details were made public. Analysts said that little in terms of material discussions is likely to have transpired.
“It was a show of strength,” one analyst said, asking not to be identified. “Nothing more; but it was a good show of strength.”
Banerjee told reporters: “I have come here to support Kumaraswamy as his is a regional party…”
There is a saying, jo humse takrayega woh choor choor ho jayega (those who fight with us will be destroyed). It doesn’t help to fight against regional parties. If regional parties come together they will be the strongest force,” she said.
“Nothing much was discussed about the coalition, as the primary agenda was to come out in support of the coalition government. The message was that we have stopped the BJP and its taking over of the state,” Yechury said.
The parties have differing ideologies, even conflicting ambitions, but also a common enemy.
Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda mocked the coming together of the parties as a temporary platform. “Their only agenda seems to be to oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi and nothing else. Within three months, these parties will cut sorry figures as the platform will crumble,” he said.
Later, addressing a press conference, Kumaraswamy said he was a child of circumstances and there was an immense responsibility on his shoulders as he had to ensure that the coalition government lived up to the expectations of people across the country, who were looking at it as a model to be replicated in 2019.
The chief minister said a floor test will be held on Friday to prove the coalition’s majority. “There is a strange situation in the state, where ordinary people are divided in their opinion of this coalition. The suspicions expressed by people will be addressed by this government,” he said. Regarding the ~53,000-crore farm loan waiver the JD(S) had promised in its manifesto, Kumaraswamy said he had said he would waive all the loans if the party had got a majority. “I’m in a coalition government now and I have to take the Congress into confidence as well before I announce such a huge policy,” he said.
Kumaraswamy also invited former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to provide his inputs on addressing the problems faced by the people of the state. “In his resignation speech the other day, he said he had travelled across the state for two years and would hit the streets again to highlight the plight of the people. I want to tell him that nobody has to hit the streets under this government because we will allow everybody to approach us. Please give us all the information you have about the hardships that people face so that we can address it,” he said.
Political analyst Narendar Pani said while the show of unity was significant, it appeared to be the launch of the third front rather than a broad alliance with the Congress. “Although it was the Congress’s show, the regional party leaders seemed to have turned out in support of the JD(S) rather than for the coalition; this was seen in how (deputy CM, the Congress’ G.) Parameshwara was relegated to the side,” he said.