K'taka's many contradictions
Amid a walk-out by the opposition BJP, newly-appointed Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy won the floor test on Friday in the Karnataka Assembly by securing the support of 117 MLAs. This brings to a close the 10-day long political drama that began with the Karnataka Assembly results on May 15. Talking to the reporters before the floor test, Kumaraswamy ruled out that his party has entered a pact with Congress as per which he will be the Chief Minister for the first 30 months and following that, the Chief Minister's post will go to a Congress nominee. The confusion began with Deputy Chief Minister and KPCC President G Parameshwara acknowledging that his party has yet not decided on giving its support to Kumaraswamy for the full five-year term. Even though the JD (Secular) and Congress are uncertain as to how long the current government will function, BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa has asked Kumaraswamy to fulfil his promise and waive the farm loans worth Rs 54,000 crore including those availed from nationalised banks. Failing which, he would kick off a state-wide agitation against the JD(S)-Congress government. For the smooth functioning of the government, JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy, in his meeting with Congress President Rahul Gandhi and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, had agreed on the formation of a coordination committee that will take up demands raised by the MLAs. They also agreed that a common minimum programme will be worked out for the government to follow. On his part, Kumaraswamy has said that he will try to fulfil the promises made in the manifestos of the two parties. Prominent Congress leader DK Shivakumar, who played a key role in keeping the Congress and JD(S) MLAs united, was expecting to be rewarded with the Deputy Chief Minister's post. But as the post eventually went to state Congress President G Parameshwara, Shivakumar expressed his discontent to the party high command, which after a crucial meeting has reportedly decided to make him next president of KPCC. He may also get a Cabinet berth in the Kumaraswamy government. Congress being the bigger partner in the coalition may witness more such similar demands, which may not be easy for Kumaraswamy to accommodate, given similar pressures from his own party men. Aware of these contradictions, Kumarasamy had admitted at the very outset that running the coalition for the full five-year term is a big challenge. He needs support and cooperation from the MLAs of the two parties to run the government smoothly and effectively. Apart from pressures from his own MLAs, Kumaraswamy will face an extremely belligerent opposition. BJP, which had to relinquish power within two days of coming to power, will be on the lookout for the next opportunity. It will celebrate every time the Congress-JD(S) combine faces a problem. Though the coalition government has the support of 117 MLAs, the government looks unstable and weak as the opposition needs just eight members to claim a majority in the House. In light of this, the Kumaraswamy government needs to ensure that all the MLAs are satisfied with the government. This is possible only when issues and demands raised by them are properly heard and addressed by the government. Since the government has more MLAs from the Congress, it will have more issues from the party as well. This practically means that despite being the Chief Minister from JD(S), Kumaraswamy will have to spend more time dealing with issues that have been brought by Congress MLAs. In turn, this may give the impression that Kumaraswamy is according more preference to the Congress than his own party MLAs. BJP's Yeddyurappa has already alleged that the Congress is out to finish JD(S) in the state. By adopting a belligerent attitude on the issue of farm-loan waivers, BJP has tried to keep the pressure on the new Chief Minister from the word go. During the election campaign, farmers' suicide in the state was a key issue, raised by all the parties. According to BJP sources, nearly 3,500 farmers committed suicide during the five-year tenure of Congress. To mitigate the problem, Kumaraswamy had promised before the floor test to waive the farmers' loan. Just like the SC gave 24 hours to prove his majority in the House, Yeddyurappa has given 24 hours to the new Chief Minister to waive the farmers' loan or else, BJP would launch a state-wide agitation. In view of the enormous pressure on Kumaraswamy both from the coalition partner and the opposition, the speculations on whether he will be able to remain in his post for the full five-year term are not unfounded.