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Infighting, rebellions plague 'stable' JD(S)-Congress govt; parties look to placate disgruntled ranks

The fractured mandate thrown up by the Karnataka Assembly election 2018 results not only made for some high-intensity political drama in the state but also 'forced' together 'unlikely allies' in the Congress, JD(S).

The post-poll alliance may have succeeded in halting the BJP’s victory march, but just days after the JD(S)-Congress cabinet was expanded, with the induction of 25 new ministers after intense bargaining for ministerial berths – 15 from Congress and 10 from JD(S) – challenges facing the combine became apparent as dissidence reared its ugly head in both the parties.

Several prominent party leaders, especially from North Karnataka, openly expressed their displeasure towards their respective party leadership. This has left them, particularly the Congress, precariously poised. Though the respective party leaderships have gone all out to quell the rebellion, as this report in The New Indian Express pointed out,  pacifying irate leaders such as MB Patil and Satish Jarkiholi appears to be a herculean task. While JD(S), too, is facing a similar challenge, it seems less affected considering the clout of its leaders, the report said.

Disgruntled Congress MLAs hold meet, stage protests

As soon as the final list of MLAs with cabinet berths started circulating in party circles, protests erupted in different parts of the state including Mysuru, Gadag, Vijayapura and Kalaburagi.

Upset over not securing berths in the expanded Kumaraswamy ministry, several Congress MLAs in Karnataka held separate meetings in the city on Thursday. The meetings were held a day after the 15-day old two-member JDS-Congress cabinet was expanded.

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and his deputy G Parameshwara. PTI

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and his deputy G Parameshwara. PTI

The much-awaited exercise has caused heartburn among several lawmakers in the coalition while supporters of some of the ministerial aspirants staged protests.

The Congress had dropped several key members of the previous Siddaramaiah ministry, including Patil, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Ramalinga Reddy, R Roshan Baig, HK Patil, Tanvir Sait, Shamanur Sivashankarappa and Jarkhiholi.

Emerging out of the meeting, Jarkiholi, who is also an AICC secretary, said they discussed the cabinet expansion and it was true that they were "unhappy" over not getting ministership. "We have discussed how to set it right by bringing it to the notice of state and Delhi party leadership about capable and efficient aspirants. We have discussed this yesterday as well as today and we will meet again," he said.

However, trying to downplay the significance of the development, Patil blamed the media for creating "a hype" about his meeting with party colleagues and asked, "what is wrong with it?"

Admitting that he was a ministerial aspirant, the former Minister said nothing was more important than self-respect for him, but "that doesn't mean being anti-party". He claimed that the discussion was about the welfare of the party.

MLAs at the meetings are said to have expressed dismay about party leadership, especially CLP leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara, who is also the Pradesh Congress Chief, for not getting them ministerial berths.

The JD(S) leadership also had to bear the brunt of its workers' anger. Supporters of MC Manuguli laid siege to HD Deve Gowda's home and left for Raj Bhavan after they were told that his name had made it to the list, as per The Times of India.

'Rotate' to placate

A Times of India report suggests that Congress ministers in the Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka will be replaced with new faces after two years, while non-performers will be dropped even earlier on the basis of an assessment every six months.

This rotation plan, to keep its ministers on their toes, is largely seen as an attempt by the party to placate its disgruntled ministers. AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka, KC Venugopal, told Times of India that the party high command had worked out a three-point formula on the induction of ministers and their continuity.

"This is not the final cabinet. The ministers' performance will be reviewed every six months and those not meeting targets will be asked to go. For the time being, no first-time MLA will be inducted into the cabinet. The six berths which have not been filled will be kept on hold. The ministers' tenure is on a rotation basis for two years," Venugopal said.

The party high command, meanwhile, has not taken too well to the dissent expressed by its ministerial aspirants, party sources told Times of India. "Those who are speaking against the leadership will not be considered for berths in future," a source quoted by the report said.

JD(S) at 'mercy' of Congress?

The delay in ministry formation is not only a tussle over portfolios. It is also the ever-present Congress malaise: too many factions and too many claimants for too few posts. And Congress does have a long history of sidelining popular state leaders.

Earlier, Kumaraswamy had publicly stated his disappointment over the JD(S) being unable to form the government on its own.

Ahead of his Delhi visit to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Union ministers, he said that he was at the "mercy" of Congress and not the 6.5 crore people of Karnataka as his government had not received the full mandate which his party had sought in the Assembly elections. "The people of the state rejected me and our party. I had sought an absolute majority. I have heard the statements of farm leaders too and how much they supported me," he had said.

He spoke about how his government was not an independent one. "I had requested the people to give me a mandate that prevents me from succumbing to any pressure other than you. But today I am at the mercy of the Congress. I am not under the pressure of the 6.5 crore people of the state," Kumaraswamy had said.

The JD(S) leadership has also been saying they have to seek the consent of its coalition partner Congress before taking any decision.

His father Deve Gowda, meanwhile, had said that they were willing to support a Congress chief minister but it was the Congress which insisted that Kumaraswamy take up the job, as this Firstpost piece points out. At that time, the promise was of unconditional support. Realisation no doubt is dawning on the JD(S) that the Congress support is anything but unconditional.

Fr-enemies Congress-JD(S) hardly see eye-to-eye

While leaders of both parties were forced to resolve their differences after the election results were declared on 15 May, to stake claim to form the government ahead of the BJP, the message did not reach the party cadre in time, as per this Firstpost report.

Clashes broke out between the two camps during a victory procession for Congress legislator NH Shivashankar Reddy, who defeated CR Narasimhamurthy of JD(S), at Gowribidanur Assembly segment in Chikballapur district. Cadres from both sides ended up filing police complaints against each other.

The report quotes political analyst Sandeep Shastri as saying that the Congress-JD(S) alliance is likely to create confusion among the party cadre, in 80 to 90 Assembly constituencies at least, where the two were the main rivals.

"Take the example of the Chamundeswari constituency. Both Congress and JD(S) workers worked hard for their candidates in that constituency. But a JD(S) candidate defeated Siddaramaiah there. So it will take some time for the JD(S) MLA to adapt himself to the alliance," Shastri said, adding that the alliance is also likely to impact the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

A report in MoneyControl supports this argument: "In Karnataka, the Congress and the JD(S) have been bitter enemies until recently and even if the leaders unite at the top, it is never going to be easy for the party workers to cooperate with each other at the grassroots level."

With inputs from agencies.

Updated Date: Jun 08, 2018 15:08 PM

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