A marriage of contradictions, The Cong-JD(S) deal wobble

by July 9, 2019 0 comments

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The Cong-JD(S) deal is teetering despite bandages and both parties need to look at survival than co-habiting under duress

This was the weakest link in the Opposition mahagathbandhan, the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance in Karnataka, which was formed on the basis of a mutual need to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of power in the state Assembly and set the tenor for a strategic counter at the national level. A marriage of contradictions, it has predictably been under stress and strain since, considering the BJP, which wasn’t too far behind in numbers, was snapping at its neck. So post the overwhelming Lok Sabha verdict in favour of the BJP, it was only a matter of time before this deal was expected to collapse. Organically, it was never meant to stick given the on-ground polarity of the two parties and the deep personality clash between Congress leader Siddaramaiah and the JD(S) father-son duo of HD Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy. And though Gowda senior has acted as an adhesive for a time, he, too, has come out against Siddaramaiah now, blaming him for the latest spate of resignations. And to stay in power, the Gowdas are smart at negotiating their minority positions with majority partners, no matter what the ideology and prosper vine-like on a merged entity. While one can accuse the reinvigorated BJP of attempting a coup again in Karnataka to expose the faultlines as part of Operation Lotus, can the Congress really afford to be swept up by the poachers’ trap and risk its image as an auctionable rather than an actionable party? It is sad enough that former Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, after letting go of plum Lok Sabha seats for the JD(S), has had a hard time holding fort, confining party MLAs to plush resorts, giving into their absurd personal demands, buying them up and settling their ego issues to ensure they don’t quit the flock. A browbeaten Congress clearly is caught between the devil and the deep sea. On the one hand, the collapse would mean a State Government slips out of control and it runs the risk of being labelled an opportunistic ally. On the other, continuity means a further erosion of the party’s credibility and base, one which has cost it seats in the general election with the party rank and file undercutting JD(S) candidates and, therefore, helping the BJP in the process. The horse-trading with rebels is a new low. And at the moment, keeping Siddaramaiah happy and in the fold is more important for the crisis-hit party, which anyway doesn’t have a national leadership. With Rahul Gandhi stepping down, his word to the Gowdas, too, would be deemed to have lapsed, leaving the party with little choice but to strengthen its State leader and units. If decentralisation, deconstruction and organisational build-up are the key to Congress’ revival, then it has to now listen to Siddaramaiah. He was upset when his loyalists were kept out of the Cabinet and when he had to surrender party strongholds to the JD(S). Now the clamour by most Congress MLAs that they want Siddaramaiah re-elected on his own steam has worsened matters for the continuity of the alliance. Then there is a larger hit that the Congress has to take the blame for, the lack of governance with Kumaraswamy calling the shots.

For the BJP, it is an opportunity to undo the hurt of sitting in the Opposition despite being the single largest party at 104 in the 224-member House. Now that the resignations by disgruntled Congress MLAs are helping close the gap, it has but naturally revived its strategy to engineer defections by promising berths and other benefits, which is reportedly how it formed the Karnataka government in 2008. Of course, it may be argued that the BJP doesn’t need to do this because the ruling alliance will crumble under its own weight and post a big verdict, there is a pressure of expectation on the saffron party which should not be compromised by petty politicking. But for the BJP, Karnataka is the only southern gateway because the four other southern States haven’t quite warmed up to it. And it may be friendly to Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and KC Rao in Telangana, but it doesn’t have the popular pulse there. For both the BJP and the Congress, Karnataka is a prize game.

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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