For the Karnataka government the end is nigh

Last Updated: Tue, Jul 09, 2019 14:16 hrs

With the Congress on the back foot in a vast majority of the country, its coalition government with the JD(S) in Karnataka is on shaky ground to say the least. On July 1, two Congress legislators, Anand Singh and Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned sparking talk of whether the party should remain in the coalition. Meanwhile the Congress Legislative Party meeting got underway Tuesday morning in the wake of the resignations.

The coalition government is just about a year old and Chief Minister Kumaraswamy is seen as the lone man on a sinking ship as cabinet minister tendered their resignations. Currently, the HD Kumaraswamy government has 116 of the 224 in the assembly; that’s three more than a simple majority. This could however change. As of last week, a total of 13 MLA’s had submitted their resignations.

The BJP now has a simple majority of 106. The Congress sees the BJP’s hand as events unfold in the state. Congress leaders accused the BJP of orchestrating the defects by offering MLA’s money and positions in the government. In the aftermath of the 13 resignations, AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal said in part, “This time also they are using Central agencies like the I-T, ED and CBI to threaten MLAs. Money and ministership are being offered to do horse trading”. In a column for the Bangalore Mirror, Prof Chandan Gowda refers to the current political situation as a subversion of democracy – “The engineering of defections through offers of money, ministerial berths and other enticements has come to seem legitimate politics. The relentless attempts of the BJP at making the JDS-Congress coalition government fall has doubtless disrupted the work of governance.”

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy returned from a trip to the US on Sunday and maintained that he isn’t bothered about the recent developments in his government saying in part, “I am not bothered about the political developments as my concern is to look into people’s issues”.

The result of the elections in the state last year were such that the BJP was the single largest party but did not have a majority on its own. It was asked to form the government under controversial circumstances, but it could not. Instead, the JD(S) and the Congress who were rivals in the elections decided to come together to form a coalition government. Together, they ensured crossing the halfway mark needed to form a government.

Since the beginning of the coalition, things haven’t been smooth for the government, including Kumaraswamy who at one event broke down and blamed his allies for the troubles of the government. Putting this coalition together seemed to be a tedious task and once the government was in place, it hasn’t managed to deliver. The Hindustan Times editorial called this a flawed political experiment –

“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.”

Among those who tendered their resignations, 66-year-old, seven-time Congress MLA and ex-minister Ramalinga Reddy is he senior most. He did say that the BJP did contact him but that didn’t affect his decision making in deciding to resign. 10 members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, after submitting their resignations checked in to the luxurious Sofitel Mumbai. Youth Congress leaders brought two horse drawn carriages as a symbol of protest against the BJP’s alleged ‘horse trading’ tactics. The MLA’s were then shifted to Goa.

Meanwhile, the BJP is waiting in the wings, if not already involved according to some in the Congress camp. The BJP state Chief B S Yeddyurappa said they would wait for the process to play out saying in part, “After the resignation process is over and the speaker takes his decision, leaders of our party will discuss and decide…”. The Hindu editorial sees a BJP hand in the events that have unfolded so far in the state –

“The BJP’s hand in the crisis is not invisible. In fact, its imprimatur is unmistakable in the turmoil. The BJP’s maximalist approach of seizing power by all means and, in all places, may have served it well in terms of expanding its footprint. But this approach does not conform to its claimed adherence to democracy.”

BJP leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in parliament that the BJP was not involved in any of the developments in the state saying in part, “Whatever is happening currently in Karnataka, we have not relation with that.”

On Tuesday, all eyes will be on the speaker of the Legislative Assembly K R Ramesh Kumar who will take a call on the resignations that have been submitted. The rebel MLA’s are expected to meet with him and if their decision is accepted, the coalition government will be on the verge of collapse. The spotlight will then turn to Kumaraswamy to see if he resigns or stays to fight and scramble to keep the government afloat.

More columns by Varun Sukumar