Karnataka: Unholy alliance goes, but instability may go on

Former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.

The HD Kumaraswamy government has lost the trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly ending days of drama. The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance secured 99 votes to BJP’s 105. The verdict was on expected lines after 16 rebel MLAs of the coalition sent resignations to the Speaker and the 2 independent MLAs who were backing the government withdrew support.

The fate of the rebel MLAs hangs in balance. Now all eyes are on the Governor who has accepted Kumaraswamy’s resignation. It remains to be seen whether he invites BJP to form the government or keeps the assembly in suspended animation or orders fresh polls.

An opportunistic alliance…..

Assembly elections in Karnataka last year in May resulted in a hung verdict with BJP winning 104, Congress 78 and JDS 37 seats. The Governor invited the BJP to form the government being the single largest party. However, BS Yeddyurappa, resigned before facing the trust vote as he couldn’t muster the numbers.

Yeddyurappa had promised Modi on that day that he “will win all the 28 seats in Lok Sabha elections next year”. The BJP swept the state bagging 25 out of 28 seats in the recently concluded polls.

Shaky from Day 1

The JD(S) and Congress who had contested the elections separately, attacking each other vociferously during the campaign, came together to form the government, to keep the BJP out of power and prevent snap polls.

The alliance was on shaky ground from day one. The mandate was clearly anti-Congress and neither in favour of JD(S).

The JD(S), which had half the number of MLAs of Congress, got the chief minister’s chair. This decision was not welcomed by all in the party, especially the Siddaramaiah camp. The JD(S) has a presence only in Old Mysuru and is a representative of mainly the Vokkaligas. It secured three-fourths of its votes in the Old Mysuru region.

Siddaramaiah was defeated on Chamundeshwari seat by a JD(S) candidate by 30,000 votes. The then Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged during the election campaign that JD(S) is the B-team of the BJP which upset former prime minister Deve Gowda.

Siddaramaiah, the former chief minister, was expelled from JD(S) in 2005 before he joined the Congress. He shares an uneasy relationship with the Gowdas. He could be happy with Leader of Opposition position, rather than seeing his bete noire, occupy the chief minister chair. There were clear contradictions in the alliance.

HDK sobbed and governance suffered

MLAs from Congress and JD(S) who missed the bus (couldn’t be made ministers) were sulking. HD Kumaraswamy on few occasions cried in public, stating he is not happy while heading a coalition government and is swallowing the pain of it.

Both the camps were busy protecting their flock from preying eyes of the BJP. Resort politics came back to haunt the people of Karnataka. In all this, governance took a backseat.

Loss in Lok Sabha polls the last nail in the coffin

The coalition could win only 2 seats (1 each) in the Lok Sabha polls. It was brutally rejected by the people of the state for its lack of governance and constant internal bickering. With Congress central leadership mess and all hopes of any accommodation lost, MLAs started feeling jittery and looking out.

After all, they are also like employees of a company, and need to evaluate the prospects of the party.

Sixteen MLAs (13 from Congress and 3 from JDS) staring at bleak prospects resigned from the Assembly (not yet accepted). Some of them hard core loyalists of Siddaramaiah, giving rise to speculation that he could be behind the downfall.

The MLAs camped in Mumbai and sought Supreme Court intervention. They were not threatened by the disqualification proceedings and didn’t come to vote, citing court orders.

History shows such alliances don’t last long

Ideologically, the Congress and JD(S) are poles apart. Some might argue JD(S) is ideologically bankrupt and could ally with anybody for the sake of power. Such alliances are normally forced from the top leadership and do not get the support from the ground.

How come JD(S) and Congress workers reconcile and make up when they have fought each other for decades? We saw the same in Uttar Pradesh, where SP-BSP alliance broke up after Lok Sabha elections.

History shows that such opportunistic alliances, formed only to grab power, do not last. The AAP and Congress came together to form government in Dec 2013, but it lasted less than 3 months. The JD(S) and Rashtriya Janata Dal, sworn enemies, came together to defeat BJP and succeeded.

However, they parted ways in less than 2 years. The BJP and the PDP joined hands to form government in Jammu and Kashmir, but it couldn’t last its full term.

Instability could continue

The resignations of the 16 MLAs have not been decided upon. In all probability to seek revenge Congress-JDS could get them disqualified through their Speaker, which is likely to be challenged in the courts.

Even if the BJP forms the government, by-polls to these 16 seats, could hold the key to the stability of any future government. The loyalty of these MLAs cannot be taken for granted. Additionally, they would extract their pound of flesh.

The history of the previous government led by Yeddyurappa does not inspire confidence. BJP is also a divided house.

Vajubhai Vala, the Governor of Karnataka, was the BJP Gujarat state President when Deve Gowda became prime minister. The BJP government led by Suresh Mehta was removed by Deve Gowda, despite proving majority, on the pretext of a Constitutional crisis.

Now, Vajubhai holds the keys and is likely to settle score with Gowda. The drama may have just begun…