Karnataka politics is back to playing out a familiar spectacle of bloated egos fighting for their share of power and pelf. An already tenuous JD (S)-Congress coalition government is teetering on the verge of collapse under the weight of its internal contradictions. The unfolding political drama, getting murkier by the hour, exposes the vulnerabilities of a coalition that was held together, not by any lofty ideological underpinning but by an opportunistic deal among power-hungry politicians. 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 the tenterhooks all the time. The infighting within the Congress, particularly the growing resentment against Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, added fuel to the embers of discontent. As a result, a full-blown political turmoil has engulfed the State while people are made to helplessly watch their elected representatives resort to an unabashed display of money and muscle power in the unfolding game of shifting loyalties. An unseemly spectacle of horse-trading and name-calling is being played out as the 13-month-old Kumaraswamy government has been hopping from one crisis to the other. The latest crisis was precipitated by the resignation of 13 MLAs — 10 Congress and 3 JD (S) — who were shifted to a hotel in Mumbai by a private flight arranged by a BJP leader. It was then followed by the resignation of an independent MLA and Minister H Nagesh who extended support to the BJP.
The Congress-JD(S) coalition, which has 118 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly, faces the risk of losing its majority if the resignations are accepted. With no sign of reconciliation from the rebel legislators, despite several face-saver formulas being floated from either side, all the Ministers — 21 from the Congress and 9 from the JD (S) — have submitted their resignations to facilitate a Cabinet reshuffle in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to save the government. In the rapidly shifting power games, no party is in a position to claim the moral high ground. The BJP, which has 105 members, has been making moves to destabilise the government to bring Yeddyurappa back into the saddle. Though the BJP central leadership has rubbished the charge of engineering defections, the party’s role in ferrying rebel MLAs to Mumbai is hard to ignore. With Karnataka Assembly set to convene for the Monsoon session on July 12, the government could be forced to prove its majority in a floor test. Time is running out for the crisis-hit coalition to set its house in order and save the government.