When the prospect of a hung assembly loomed large over the horizon on election eve in Karnataka, it was speculated on the basis of preferences that while Deve Gowda was keen on an alliance with the Congress if there was a hung House, his son HD Kumaraswamy tended to prefer the BJP.
However, as results came pouring in, the issue was settled on the basis of pure and simple expediency. The BJP was not prepared to play second fiddle to Kumaraswamy while the Congress, desperate to stay in power to prove the prophets of doom wrong, was ready to offer chief ministership to him on a platter in a Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition.
For Kumaraswamy, the choice was crystal clear—he wanted the coveted chair and was all set to bite the Congress bait. For him, dumping the BJP was a decision he took without batting an eyelid.
During the electoral campaign, Kumaraswamy had breathed fire especially on the Congress which in turn called his outfit the ‘B’ team of the BJP. Just as the BJP was soft on the JD-S, there was due reciprocity from Kumaraswamy. But the irresistible bait changed all that.
Overnight, Kumaraswamy got reminded of the Congress’ secular credentials and of the BJP being a ‘communal’ party.
History has been instrumental in fuelling suspicion on both sides. The Congress and the JD-S had forged an alliance and formed a coalition in 2004 led by Congress’ Dharam Singh when the BJP had won the single largest number of seats, but 20 months down the line, the alliance was in tatters as Kumaraswamy walked out of it and tied up with the BJP when he was offered chief ministership on a rotational scheme.
However, when time came for the BJP to head the government, Kumaraswamy backed out of the rotational deal bringing the coalition hurtling down. The deputy chief minister then was Yeddyurappa who was denied a shot at power when his turn came.
"The Congress did not fulfill many promises and we had to dump them," India Today quoted Kumaraswamy as saying then. In protest, Deve Gowda resigned as the JD-S national president.
This time around, while the JD-S had its way with chief ministership, the Congress is extracting its pound of flesh, having pushed Kumaraswamy into conceding 22 ministerial berths to the Congress, keeping only 12 to itself and appropriating the key posts of deputy chief minister and Speaker of the Assembly.
For now, the JD-S has caved in, accepting all that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul asked for on Malikarjuna Kharge’s goading. But will Kumaraswamy not begin to flex his muscles in due course?
Crucial vote banks of the two parties will also start demanding a greater share in power. While Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara is a Dalit, the Muslims are seeking cabinet berths and so are the Lingayats. Where it will all end is anybody’s guess.
The BJP, led by Yeddyurappa, is waiting to take revenge but he knows only too well that the time is not opportune to destabilise the Kumaraswamy government. There are bound to be crossed lines between the Congress and the JD-S in due course. In fact, that is inherent in the very nature of their relationship.
While the survival of the coalition would be imperative in the one year that remains before the Lok Sabha elections, there is no guarantee that the glue would hold much beyond that. Besides, the coalition partners may be bent upon survival in the short run but what stops individual legislators to get lured into quitting their seats in quest of a better deal from the BJP. So insecure is the coalition that the entire herd of the Congress and the JD-S is being held in virtual captivity even now in anticipation of the trust vote on Thursday.