JD-S-BJP: A coalition that was set to fall from inception

By V.S. Karnic, IANS

Bangalore : The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition in Karnataka that fell apart Saturday was an unlikely alliance that surprised almost everyone when it took power on Feb 3, 2006.

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Here was a case of a son, H.D. Kumaraswamy, a first time member of the assembly who was known more for producing and distributing films, rebelling against his father H.D. Deve Gowda, a powerful politician in Karnataka, to bring down his own party’s coalition with the Congress.

The Congress lost majority in the May 2004 assembly polls winning just 65 seats in the 225-member house. The JD-S won even less (58). The BJP was the single largest party with 79 members.

There was no question of JD-S going with the BJP. Deve Gowda has named his faction of Janata Dal as Secular and he could not co-habit with “communal” BJP.

The Congress was also a sworn political enemy and had powerful leaders from the Vokkaliga community to which Gowda belongs. There was ideological as well as caste politics involved.

These hesitations were overcome then since the BJP had to be kept away from power.

The Congress and JD-S joined hands and formed the coalition, with Dharam Singh of Congress becoming chief minister and Siddaramaiah of JD-S the deputy chief minister.

Murmurs started a few months later in the JD-S camp that the Congress was trying to break up JD-S with the help of Siddaramaiah, an influential leader belonging to the Kuruba community which is spread all over Karnataka.

It was generally expected that the unstable coalition would fall sooner than later and the state would be in for a spell of President’s rule.

None expected the greenhorn politician Kumaraswamy to be working behind closed doors to strike a deal with – of all the parties — the BJP.

“It is the saddest day of my life,” wailed his father Deve Gowda when Kumaraswamy took over as chief minister on Feb 3, 2006.

Kumaraswamy had the backing of nearly 50 of the 65 legislators and said he was doing the unthinkable to save the party from being destroyed by the Congress.
“I do not believe in ‘isms’ as they are used to divide people,” he said.

Deve Gowda suspended his son and his supporters from the party.

Kumaraswamy did not attach much importance to these actions as he had entered into an agreement with the BJP, making its senior leader B.S. Yediyurappa his deputy and promising to vacate the chief minister’s post 20 months later – Oct 3, 2007.

The BJP was on cloud nine. In an article in BJP Today, the party’s periodical, under the heading “A New era for Karnataka and BJP”, the party gushed: “It is for the first time that BJP has made it to power in any of the southern states. The swearing-in … has instilled a new spirit in the hearts of thousands of party workers and leaders and sent a wave of joy and jubilation across the country.

“The party that has always been dubbed as a party of the Hindi heartland has finally ascended to power in the state that is called the Gateway to the South,” the article went on.

The general public was sceptical.

They found it difficult to believe that Kumaraswamy would go to such an extent as to join hands with the BJP without tacit approval from his father or knowing that he would get his backing soon. They were proved right.

A few months into the JD-S-BJP coalition, Gowda began patting his son for saving the party from Congress machinations. The BJP was sanguine.

It kept harping that power will be transferred and it will have its first chief minister in the south on Oct 3, 2007.

Yediyurappa went to the extent of announcing in the last session of the assembly that he would occupy the chief minister’s post in the next session.

In Shimoga, a district that he has made his political base, he went further: “Next year I will hoist the national flag in Bangalore.”

These utterances did not go down well with either the public or his own party.

Kumaraswamy seized the chance and began expressing displeasure at the unabashed haste shown by his deputy.

The run up to the polls to 209 civic bodies in the last week of September was a godsend.

In Kumaraswamy’s presence, JD-S ministers began telling election rallies that he would continue as chief minister even after Oct 3.

The BJP preferred to view such statements as election propaganda to woo the minorities because it was Labour and Minorities Welfare Minister Iqbal Ansari of the JD-S who first said that Kumaraswamy would continue beyond Oct 3.

In between there were many instances when the BJP was unhappy with Kumaraswamy as he had taken unilateral decisions on posting of officers.

The BJP made noises but did not strike as it was expecting Kumaraswamy to honour his word to step down.

Though the JD-S did well in the civic body polls compared to 2001, the BJP too had a good showing. But it failed to take seriously the pronouncements of Ansari and other JD-S leaders.

Deve Gowda moved in for the kill taking centre stage. He showed reluctance to the party handing over power. Kumaraswamy started saying he was helpless.

“Now the party and we are together. I have to abide by the party’s decision even though I want to honour my word on power transfer,” he began saying.

The end was on the wall in bold letters.

The BJP woke up to it too late. The Gateway to the South just got shut for some more time for the BJP.