Millennium Post

Shaky Assembly

Fresh tremors were felt in the Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka as two Congress MLAs – Anand Singh and Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned from the assembly on Monday. Their resignation means that Congress's strength is reduced to 77 in the state assembly while Janta Dal (Secular) maintains 37 seats and with the two independents and one from BSP, the coalition government now stands at 117 in a house of 225. Should the coalition witness a loss of 5 more members either through resignations or possible defections, the Kumaraswamy government will lose its majority in the state assembly. Down to 117, the coalition government is precariously held with challenging times ahead, especially with former CM and BJP state president Yeddyurappa on the lookout to form the government should the current coalition fail to keep the majority. The two MLAs who submitted their resignation have earlier been identified with the "rebel camp" which has threatened to destabilise the government and hence their resignation should not have been unexpected. Anand Singh's resignation comes in the wake of the coalition government's decision to sell 3,667 acres to JSW Steel in Balari – where he represents Vijayanagara – and the "injustice" in general meted out to the district. It is understood that several Congress leaders had urged the government to scrap the JSW decision in the interest of the state, however, the Cabinet decided to sell the land at Rs 1.20 lakh per acre to the steel manufacturer. While Anand Singh had his reasons, Ramesh Jarkiholi has been threatening to resign ever since he was dropped from the Cabinet in December 2018. In fact, he has been the face of the disgruntled group of Congress legislators as the party has been facing dissidence since the formation of the coalition government. The two resignations have revived apprehensions of a falling government in the state with BJP observing the development closely. They portray an impression that they are not responsible if the JD(S)-Congress coalition cannot sustain but they feel the onus to stake claim to the government should it collapse. BJP houses 105 seats in the state assembly – 8 short of the magic number i.e., 113 – and if somehow those resigning the Kumaraswamy government swear allegiance to BJP, which is clearly not out of question, BJP may have a shot at forming the government. But that is a possibility that CM Kumaraswamy and Congress have refuted by citing confidence on their government's survival. As uncertainty hovers, speculations are ripe about more resignations in line which builds up a dangerous prospect for the Kumaraswamy-led coalition. With the conundrum prevailing in the Karnataka state assembly, speculations are high regarding a Cabinet reshuffle before the Monsoon Session to prevent the disgruntled MLAs from quitting the party and giving BJP a chance to embarrass the coalition government by dragging the government to a floor test. While away on personal agenda to the US, HD Kumaraswamy asserted confidence in his government but his presence is mandatory to subject the Cabinet to a reshuffle in a bid to appeal to the protesting Congress MLAs whose defection could cause Kumaraswamy his seat as the CM of Karnataka. Congress leaders reportedly unhappy with the coalition government must assess the situation and act accordingly because should they join BJP and still fail to make up the magic number, it will be a grossly embarrassing scenario for them. Much has been speculated about BJP's 'Operation Lotus' – an alleged ambition to topple Kumaraswamy's coalition government – but BJP has denied all speculations by maintaining the fact that they remain committed to playing the part of a healthy opposition. The recent Lok Sabha elections only reflected the plight of JD(S) and Congress in the state with both winning just one seat each whereas BJP grabbed 25 out of the 28 parliamentary seats. While those were for the Centre yet they seemed to have a bearing on the state assembly's proceedings with the precariously held coalition government struggling to keep its flock together.

While the government tries to consolidate its position as it faces a potential collapse owing to apprehensions of MLAs resigning from the coalition, it should be noted that a shaky legislative assembly does not augur well for the state, rather any state. The government machinery is gravely affected in such circumstances and has a bearing on its functioning which, in turn, affects the state proceedings on different fronts. Karnataka cannot incessantly indulge in this shaky assembly and needs a concrete government to carry out the development work for which it has been elected. The instability it asserts has only reduced the popularity and confidence in coalition governments in the eyes of citizens who may see this assembly imbroglio as highly unappreciative by democratic standards.

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