A Prelude to 2019 Lok Sabha Polls
         Date: 21-Jan-2019
Hardly a few months in power, the JD (S)-Congress alliance is facing another crisis situation. After the hapeless posturing in front of the party workers and a warning to the dominant partner By H D Kumarswamy,the poaching and counter-poaching allegations only indicate the instability and unease
R Rajagopalan
 
Hardly a few months in power, the minority JDS Government of HD Kumaraswamy is teetering towards another political crisis, as its disgruntled partner is threatening to plunge the State into chaos. Congress may have been ‘delighted’ at the ‘lotus wilting’ as the Independents ingratiate themselves back into the Congress fold leaving the BJP in the lurch. Still, it is clear that all is not well with the Kumaraswamy Government.
 
 
All is not well with the minority JDS-Cong coalition in Karnataka  
 
The state’s political drama seems a lot like a prelude to the General Elections. BJP and Congress want their game plans to succeed. For instance, BJP wants to show that Mahagadbandhan, be it at regional level or at national level, is bound to collapse. Similarly, by hook or by crook, Congress wants to ensure that 2019 shouldn’t be easy for PM Modi. So the unholy alliance will continue till the Lok Sabha polls.
 
Karnataka politics was plunged into crisis as seat-sharing talks for 2019 began between JDS and the Congress. Interestingly, the rift between the Congress and JDS began in the middle of December 2018. The bargain for Lok Sabha seats started with the fifty-fifty sharing. Then, out of 28 seats JDS demanded 12 seats. Congress never wanted to allot more seats to the ruling JDS.
 
The fallout of the Lok Sabha seat-sharing talks resulted in dissidents playing the game of destabilisation. Congress pressurised Kumaraswamy to implement the Congress manifesto - loan waiver to farmers. Only 800 farmers’ loans were waived. PM Narendra Modi criticised Congress-JDS coalition for failing to implement its election manifesto. When irritations begun to surface, obviously Congress lost the foothold. Siddharamaiah played his cards well. Son becoming Chief Minister revived the dream of father H D Deve Gowda of becoming the Prime Minister yet again. This is another major headache for Congress.
Congress was keen on poll funds. That was the reason to knock together a hotchpotch Sarkar in Karnataka. With its recent electoral gains three states, there is no dearth of funds for the Congress to fight 2019 Lok Sabha polls on its own So what is the real crisis in Karnataka? There are no young faces coming up. At the same time old faces like to fight for the ministerial berths. Seat-sharing for Lok Sabha is not a concern for Karnataka Congress but to ensure the precarious coalition continues till Lok Sabha polls.
 
The Hindutva Factor
Karnataka has a significant base for BJP and also Hindutva ideology. Credit goes to RSS and BJP workers that the State has had BJP Governments in the past. But there are also fundamentalist forces mobilising constantly against Hindutva. Muslim fundamentalists have a strong foothold in the state, especially in the coastal region.
 
In Bengaluru itself, there is a large concentration of Muslim population in the state. With the increasing Hindutva sentiments, the congress organisational base is on the decline. The deline in Muslim support is also visible. Simultaneously, a third force like JDS has continued its hold in the Mysuru region and competing with the Congress for the Muslim votes. The present crisis in Karnataka politics is also directly linked to the above said competition for the political space.
 
The Crux
In 2018 Karnataka voters gave a mandate against the Congress. But backdoor entry of Congress to effected Kumaraswamy of JDS to form the Government. The cadres of both the parties Congress and JDS do not have any clarity about the alliance. This is the crux for the toppling game. Efforts are being made by dissident Congress leaders like DK Shivkumar, who themselves are the Chief Minister aspirants and archrivals of the former Chief Minister Siddharamaiah. HD Kumaraswamy is helpless. He either cries or plays the victim card.
 
Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy claim that they are helpless and at the same time, through the forced alliance pushing the entire State towards a hopeless. Why should elder Gowda, interfere in the state administration? Why should Deve Gowda summon Director General of Police and Chief Secretary to his house to discuss law and order?
Now there are two pertinent questions, in every Kannadiga’s mind. Will HD Kumaraswamy Government survive? Will there be a compromise formula from JDS and Congress? The state bureaucracy and the administration has come to stand still.
 
Whatever is happening is not politics of ideological issues, but based on lust for power and competition for the caste and religion absed vote-banks. Two dominant castes Lingayats and Vokkaligas in Karnataka encouraged by political coercion also play district level politics.­­ Congress leadership was keen on poll funds. That was the main reason to have a hotchpotch Sarkar in Karnataka. A few interested lobbies definitely helped Congress in the past six months with poll funds. The electoral gains across three states is the new lease of life for the financial crunch facing Congress.
 
Congress is not keen that Kumaraswamy experiment to continue. It is with this objective the State Congress led by Siddharamaiah is creating obstacles for the smooth sailing of the alliance and the Government. Kannadigas are fed up with this disgruntlement and looking for a stable Government. Either of the case of continued instablity or break-up of the alliance, BJP will the beneficiary.
(The writer is a political observer of South India based in New Delhi)