Last year, after the Karnataka Assembly elections produced a hung verdict, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka joined hands in an alliance of convenience to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party out of power. A year later, it is clear that the pressures of maintaining the alliance have gro for both parties.
The drubbing that the alliance faced at the hands of the BJP in the recent Lok Sabha elections has only heightened the discomfort of its leaders. On Tuesday, Janata Dal (Secular) president AH Vishwanath expressed his desire to resign from the position, citing a breakdown of coordination between the allies. This, he said, was hurting governance.
Vishwanath is a key member of the Janata Dal (Secular). He was promoted by party leader HD Deve Gowda to balance the interests of the Kuruba community, the same caste group to which Congress leader Siddaramaiah belongs. However, with the Gowda family dominating the Janata Dal (Secular), leaders like Vishwanath are emerging as a rallying point for disgruntled party officials who see no future in the organisation.
The embarrassment was not confined to the Janata Dal (Secular). On Tuesday, Ramalinga Reddy of the Congress took to social media to lash out at the leadership of the Karnaka alliance for denying him a ministerial position. He warned the Congress leadership against sidelining senior members. “The atmosphere is not good for seniors in the party,” he said.
These statements came ahead of an imminent expansion of the state cabinet, as Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, the son of Janata Dal (Secular) founder Deve Gowda, tries to fill three vacancies in the council of ministers. While the senior leaders from both parties are angling for berths, media reports indicate that the alliance leadership wants to offer them to independent legislators in order to secure their support.
This choppy episode is only the latest of a series of accusations and counter-accusations that have marked the alliance government over the year. In January, Kumaraswamy made an emotional speech in which he claimed that because of Congress interference in the government, he had been working like an office clerk rather than a chief minister. However, he later blamed the media for quoting him out of context. In July, he said that his position was like that of Shiva, the Hindu deity who drank poison so that other would be spared destruction.
While the Lok Sabha elections loss has clearly rattled the alliance, this cannot be an excuse for allowing the administration to be paralysed. Both the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) must realise that one possible reason for their poor election results is the perception successfully created by the BJP that the Karnataka government is made of elements whose contradictions cannot be reconciled. This impression has only been reiterated by the controversies that have emerged in last few days over the Cabinet expansion has only reiterated this perception.
Given the challenges that the state is facing, including a severe water crisis in many parts, it is important that the alliance partners bury their differences and start focusing on governance.