It was only a question of when and not if the wobbly Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka will fall. If the genesis of the coming together of the two parties that had fought against each other in the 2018 Assembly elections was based on the naked pursuit of power, their denouement was triggered by the same motivations. After a tumultuous political drama, marked by several twists and turns and allegations of murky deals, the 14-month-old Kumaraswamy government finally collapsed after the alliance lost the vote of confidence in the Assembly, setting the stage for the BJP’s return to power in the key southern State. All the players in the unseemly drama are guilty of devaluing morality in public life. As the people helplessly watched the spectacle of power politics with allegations of horse-trading and inducements flying thick and fast from all sides, the governance in the State suffered immensely. The Karnataka muddle has raised questions over the efficacy of the anti-defection Act, impartiality of various constitutional authorities, credibility of politicians and the larger issue of decadent political culture prevailing in the State. It exposed the vulnerabilities of a coalition that was held together, not by any lofty ideological underpinning but by an opportunistic deal among power-hungry politicians with bloated egos. If the friction between the rival camps of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and his Congress predecessor Siddaramaiah ensured that the arrangement remained on a razor’s edge, the devious toppling games of the BJP, waiting in the wings to grab power, kept it on tenterhooks all the time.
With rebellion exploding in its face, the coalition government was hanging by a thread for the last three weeks. The Supreme Court’s verdict giving a free hand to rebel Congress-JD (S) MLAs on the issue of attending the Assembly session tipped the scales in favour of the BJP. With the defeat staring in its face as the rebels stuck to their position, the government finally caved in after making vain attempts at buying more time. As many as 16 MLAs — 13 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) — had resigned, while two independent MLAs had withdrawn their support to the coalition government, pushing it to the precipice. As a result, the confidence motion moved by Kumaraswamy was defeated with 99 members voting for the alliance and 105 against it in a House of 225, including Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar and a nominated member. The anti-defection law seems to have failed to handle the exigencies of the kind witnessed in Karnataka. There was a virtual procession to the Supreme Court by every conceivable party to the controversy, including the independent MLAs, putting forward their respective positions and seeking relief from the judiciary.