After waltzing down the aisle for the last 20 months, Karnataka’s Janata Dal (Secular) has jilted its partner in government, the BJP, at the aisle. The JD(S) which had come to a power-sharing agreement with the BJP in which it was to have handed over the government to the latter on October 3, 2007, has plum refused to do so. Left with no alternative, the BJP has pulled out of the government plunging the state into a political crisis. It is clear who is calling the shots here. It is not JD(S) Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy but his father and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.
It would be reasonable to assume that the man who has held the highest office in the country, thanks to a coalitional arrangement would be expected to honour the word given by his party. But, the prospect of ruling when Lok Sabha elections are imminent seems to have been too tempting to give up. Gowda clearly banks on the fact that if the party stays in power, it will be at an advantage when fighting elections. He probably also counts on a split in the faction-ridden state BJP. It now remains to be seen who it will get over on to its side when facing a trust vote on October 18. The JD(S) will probably cast its covetous eyes on the Congress but that is not likely to work after the JD(S) ended a similar arrangement with it earlier when it pulled the rug out from under the feet of Congress Chief Minister Dharam Singh. Power-sharing experiments have not been a great success in Indian politics. The Kashmir one has held up so far amid much bickering. It was tried twice in UP between the BSP and the BJP. Both times, BSP supremo Mayawati refused to give up the gaddi on D-Day, leaving the BJP red in the face.
Will the BJP find many sympathisers in Karnataka? Fortunately for the Gowda duo, it will not. Always perceived as a northern party, it depends crucially on allies for its survival. The recent Advani-Karunanidhi spat has not helped its image, reinforcing southern distrust of the Brahminical northern party. The BJP’s only option was to stay on in the arrangement, but anger got the better of it. The Karnataka episode will make other political formations wary of power-sharing. This will fragment our already fractured polity even further.