The state of Karnataka had been the only hope for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to make inroads into Southern India, and the party has successfully bagged 25 out of 28 parliamentary seats in the recent general elections. This is a notable increase in the party’s presence in Lok Sabha from the state, as in 2014, it had manged to bag only 17 seats.
Congress had fielded 20 of its candidates and Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] had fielded eight. Both the parties ended up winning one seat each. D K Suresh of Congress has won from Bangalore Rural and Prajwal Revanna of JD(S) has won in Hassan. Now, the big question in front of us is: with this massive sweep, will the BJP be successful in breaking the coalition between the Congress and JD(S)?
In the Assembly elections held about a year ago in the state, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats. However, as it was short of the majority mark (112) to form a government, the Congress and the JD(S) strategically formed a post-poll alliance which shot their number up to 115, enabling them to form the government. Ever since then, BJP, under the leadership of B S Yeddyurappa and with all the support from Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, has been trying to topple this government by trying for defection of the MLAs from both Congress and JD(S).
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Both the parties in the coalition government in the state seem to be in agreement with each other about the policies for the state. As Nayantara Naraynan wrote in Scroll.in, Anna Bhagya rice scheme that Siddaramaiah had launched was continued. Kumaraswamy has also launched an interest-free loan scheme and a financial assistance scheme for pregnant women. All of this, however, has taken a back seat, as Narayanan rightly observes, the disgruntled party leaders from both the parties and their personal-political problems have come in the spotlight. In fact, several leaders from both the parties were unhappy with the idea of contesting the general election as in alliance.
The result, on the other hand, makes one wonder, what is it that the BJP has done to appease the drought-hit farmers, economically beaten workers and the unemployed youth that they have handed the BJP a landslide victory.
Veteran Kannada journalist Shiva Sundar notes that the Sangh Parivar strategically made various BJP leaders say things like, “We would change the constitution”, “Islam-free India”, and in the end, strategically plotted Malegaon blast-accused Pragya Singh Thakur as a candidate from Bhopal. The statements that the BJP leadership couldn’t make openly, were made by the fringe elements. This was necessary for the BJP to normalise “Sanghi Terrorism.”
This explains the victories of Ananth Kumar Hegde in Uttara Kannada, Tejaswi Surya in Bangalore South, and Nalin Kumar Katil in Mangalore. Apart from these developments, Sundar observes, in Karnataka, there was an informal coalition of the anti-Congress and anti-JD(S) forces leading to the victory of the BJP in the state.
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Future of the Congress-JD(S) Coalition?
Given the desperation of the BJP to topple the coalition government in the state and the existence of factions of disgruntled MLAs within both the parties, both Congress and JD(S) are seen trying to take their leaders in confidence. Prajavani, a Kannada daily has reported that Siddaramaiah has called for a party meeting on May 29, 2019, which aims at ensuring that the Congress MLAs stay with Congress. According to this report, there exists a fear in the government that, “operation kamala 2.0” (“operation lotus 2.0” a term familiarised by Yeddyurappa’s government in 2008 when it got opposition MLAs to defect and form the government) is on the horizon.
Since the formation of the government, there have been various camps within the Congress. These camps are headed by some of the powerful leaders like Ramesh Jarkiholi, MTB Nagaraj and K Sudhakar. Before the Cabinet expansion in December, 16 MLAs were not happy because they were not given a place in the Cabinet. The Kannada local media has reported that Ramesh Jarkiholi, a disgruntled MLA of the Congress, has met Umesh Jadhav of the BJP, who has won from Gulbarga constituency, and has congratulated him. This is being seen as an undesirable development for the coalition government.
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However, leaders of both the parties have had a series of meetings on Thursday and Friday and have ensured that they will be sticking together.
Speaking to Prajavani, B S Yeddyurappa of the BJP has said that the national leadership of the party has forbidden any actions like of “Operation Kamala 2.0” that would embarrass the party nationally. He also went on to say: “The results of the general elections show that the people of the state have rejected the coalition government, and if they have some sense of ethics, they will dissolve the government themselves. Tens of Congress MLAs are already in touch with us.” It is reported that Yeddyurappa is to meet Amit Shah and Narendra Modi on May 31, 2019 to discuss the situation in Karnataka.
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