Lok Sabha polls 2019: Why Congress and JD(S) alliance in Karnataka won't fall apart just yet
The state saw no shortage of political drama in 2018.
Ever since they formed the post-poll alliance after the Karnataka Assembly elections in 2018, Congress and the JD(S) have been sharing an unstable yet firm relationship. Will this be enough to allow them to work together for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?
In the 2018 state Assembly polls, the BJP emerged as the single largest party, winning 104 seats. This was quite a swing for the BJP as it had won only 40 seats in 2013. Congress won 80 seats, while the JD(S)-BSP alliance won 38 seats. Political drama ensued as the BJP and BS Yeddyurappa were called to form the government. However, rivals Congress and JD(S) came together in the state for the first time to stop the BJP from gaining power. With a total of 118 seats between them, the Congress and JD(S) formed the government, naming JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy as the chief minister.
Right from sharing ministry portfolios, the Congress and JD(S) made their differences clear. Hence, it is not at all a surprise now that several low-level Congress leaders have come out saying they see Siddaramaiah as the chief minister. Reports suggest that a number of Congress leaders were never happy with Kumaraswamy being named CM.
Why should Siddaramaiah take a step back even though Congress had won almost double the seats in the state elections, they wondered?
Now, it can be noted that Congress has several powerful leaders with influence in the party. Siddaramaiah, G Parameshwara, DK Shivakumar, and Mallikarjun Kharge are all leaders with CM aspirations. However, JD(S) is more united and centered around Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy. When considering power politics, there is bound to be disgruntlement among the party workers who may be loyal to a particular leader.
Despite the tensions, the Congress high command with Rahul Gandhi reined in its state leaders and made the compromises necessary for the sake of the alliance.
Political analyst Chandan Gowda points out that the Congress is smart enough to rein in its low-level leaders with loose tongues.
“These low-rung leaders always create rumours. They say whatever they want. But, the Congress was always pretty clear in offering its unconditional support to JD(S).”
However, the disgruntlement is not just from Congress’ side. Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy has on a number of occasions come out saying he is being treated like a ‘clerk’ and that ‘decisions were being taken at Congress’ will’. Chandan Gowda, however, feels that the media has made mountains out of molehills.
“Media misinterpreted his statements. Kumaraswamy just said that decisions were being taken with its coalition partner Congress’ approval. This is integral for any coalition to survive.”
Despite the differences, with the coalition still firm, Congress and JD(S) have revealed that they will fight the Lok Sabha polls together this year.
Now, when it comes to Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka, for the 28 seats in the state, the political dynamics are a tad different. The BJP, especially in recent times, has had dominant successes, winning a majority. Congress and JD(S) working together should mean that they will be able to put up a good fight. Although the JD(S) is seemingly driving a hard bargain for seat sharing, the two parties are expected to come to an agreement.
South Karnataka is the JD(S) stronghold while Congress is better in North Karnataka. Accordingly, the seats will be shared with consensus,” says Chandan Gowda. He also asserts that horse-trading is common but that it will not make a big difference in Lok Sabha polls. “You know how Operation Lotus failed for BJP. Although there is always a danger of poaching by BJP from an especially disgruntled opposition, I don’t see that it will make any difference in these polls.”