Editor's note: This article was originally published on 7 May, 2018. It has been republished in the light of BS Yeddyurappa resigning as chief minister of Karnataka two days after taking over the post.
With less than a week to go before the crucial Karnataka Assembly polls on 12 May, some opinion polls have indicated that the results are likely to throw up a hung Assembly — third such instance in the state's history if it takes place — with HD Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular) emerging as the kingmaker.
However, all the major parties in the fray — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and JD(S) — have maintained that each is capable of forming government on its own.
JD(S) state president, and Deve Gowda's son, HD Kumaraswamy has consistently dismissed claims of joining hands with either the BJP nor Congress, while exuding confidence of being able to sweep over the entire state on its own.
In a similar vein, Congress said that the possibility of a hung Assembly is "impossible" and that they will return to power again.
BJP's chief ministerial candidate and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa also recently asserted the saffron party will form the next government in Karnataka with an absolute majority, while ruling out the question of a coalition with JD(S). "There is only Modi wave and we are going to sweep not only the coastal region but the entire state. There is no question of post-poll alliance with JD(S) as of now."
This sentiment was also echoed by his son, BY Vijayendra, who said, "There is no scope for a hung Assembly in Karnataka; people have already had a bad experience in 2005-2006. I am sure the BJP has an edge and we will come back with an absolute majority."
The last time there was a hung Assembly in Karnataka, it was during the 2004 state election, when BJP emerged as the largest party in the state with 79 seats. However, it failed to hit the majority mark of 113 in the 224-seat Assembly. This was a time when Siddaramaiah was still a JD(S) leader.
The Congress and JD(S), eager to seize control, decided to form the first coalition government in the history of Karnataka politics.
Congress. JD(S) alliance in 2004
It was the second time, since 1983, that the electorate had thrown up a hung Assembly in Karnataka. The results were declared on 12 May, 2004, where the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the state with 79 seats, followed by the Congress at 65 seats and JD(S) with 58 seats.
It was a surprise as in the 21 years prior to it, the state always voted ruling parties out of power.
The year 2004 was also the first time BJP had emerged as a major party in the south. However, denied a clear majority, it was up to Deve Gowda's JD(S) to side with either Congress or the saffron party.
In the run-up to the 2004 polls, Gowda had firmly asserted that he would not support either the BJP or the Congress. In an interview with The Hindu he said, "I am confident the JD(S) will form the government in Karnataka on its own. The party will maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party." Nevertheless, he changed his mind in a matter of 15 days after the results were announced.
For two weeks after the Assembly results were announced, Karnataka Congress Legislature Party leader, N Dharam Singh, held negotiations with Gowda in New Delhi, to enter an alliance and form a coalition government. The JD(S) supremo was known to be close friend of the erstwhile Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Both parties decided to bury the hatchet and "keep the fundamentalists out", according to an India Today report.
During this time, BJP's Arun Jaitley flew down to Bengaluru to open talks and negotiations with JD(S). Gowda's party was not convinced even when then BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu flew down to Bengaluru to support BJP's win in the state.
For Congress and JD(S), BJP was a common enemy and they decided that the two secular parties should keep "communal forces" out of the state.
According to The Hindu, the two parties agreed to follow the Maharashtra model of coalition with JD(S) leaders landing major portfolios such as Home, Finance and Power.
A chief ministerial aspirant, Siddaramaiah had to settle for the post of the deputy chief minister, after the Congress remained firm on its stand to nominate one of its party members as the chief minister. Incidentally, it was Kumaraswamy who convinced the former to accept the position.
Thus, on 28 May, 2004, N Dharam Singh was sworn in as the Karnataka chief minister after having narrowly missed out on the chance in 1999 to SM Krishna. No BJP leader attended the swearing-in ceremony.
Fissures in the coalition
Over the course of next 20 months, cracks developed between the coalition partners. It became evident when the Congress won the district and taluk panchayat elections across Karnataka but refused to tie-up with JD(S) at the local level, as per an India Today report.
Meanwhile, there was growing resentment within the state Congress unit against Singh. Leaders like DK Shivakumar and Mallikarjuna Kharge, who still supported SM Krishna, kept asking the Congress command in New Delhi to sever ties with JD(S). India Today quoted Kharge as saying, "My main job is to make sure that we are in a majority and we are not interested in tie-ups with anybody. We would like to be the number one party."
In all this time, both Singh and Gowda maintained that the coalition was safe and sound.
The acrimony between the two parties reflected in the state government's workings where for nearly seven months since swearing-in, no ministers were appointed to 20 major portfolios. Meanwhile, Gowda kept up the pressure on Congress by writing letters to Singh and then governor TN Chaturvedi alleging irregularities and corruption in the Mysore-Bangalore Infrastructure Corridor project. He also indirectly alleged the involvement of former Congress ministers, reported Frontline.
Deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah was also dropped from his position in August 2005 for attending a AHIND convention in Hubli, which the JD(S) viewed as an act of indiscipline, according to Frontline. The report also mentioned both Gowda and Siddaramaiah shared a cold relationship as the former reportedly felt the latter stood in the crosshairs of his son's political ambitions. On the other hand, Siddaramaiah felt he could have been the chief minister if Gowda had backed him enough.
While trying to juggling the political balancing act, the state government was also failing to keep up its promises, resulting in a palpable disenchantment among the public.
Meanwhile, as the Opposition party, BJP prayed for a fallout. On two previous occasions, when Congress and JD(S) appeared to have a rocky relationship, the saffron party reached out to JD(S) but was rejected by the Gowda who said he did not want anything to do with "communal forces".
Kumaraswamy breaks up Karnataka government
As much as JD(S) supremo Gowda expressed his disapproval of the BJP, his politically ambitious son Kumaraswamy had other plans. Kumaraswamy felt the Congress did not care about the JD(S) and did nothing to satisfy their demands.
When Gowda installed Kumaraswamy as the JD(S) state president, his directive was to build the party and remove the Congress from the equation in the next election. Except, Gowda didn't expect it to happen so soon.
In January 2006, gathering 46 JD(S) legislators and 77 BJP MLAs, Kumaraswamy decided to withdraw support from the Congress government and form a new one with BJP. "The Congress did not fulfill many promises and we had to dump them," India Today quoted Kumaraswamy as saying.
In protest, Gowda resigned as the JD(S) national president and, as per India Today, said,"At least, he held the party legislators together, and that is not a small task. I have, however, told him that I am against aligning with communal parties like the BJP."
The report also mentioned there was murmur of all of it being planned. A meeting between Gowda and BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 8 January led observers to believe that the Kumarswamy-led coup had the JD(S) supremo's blessings.
Both BJP and JD(S) agreed to govern the remaining 40 months together with each party nominating a chief minister on a rotational basis of 20 months.
In February, Kumaraswamy was sworn-in as the 25th chief minister of Karnataka, and Yeddyurappa as the deputy chief minister, to accommodate the BJP, reported The Hindu. Incidentally, Singh was the lone Congress leader present at the ceremony, a gesture that was appreciated by many.
BJP-JD(S) coalition falls through
Twenty months after the JD(S) dislodged the Congress in Karnataka, the BJP-JD(S) coalition fell through as Kumaraswamy refused to give the chief ministerial position, as was the power sharing agreement. By October 2007, 18 BJP ministers had submitted their resignations.
Meanwhile, BJP legislator and now-tainted mining baron Janardhan Reddy had also accused the chief minister and forest minister of taking bribes from illegal miners in Ballari. In a jolt to JD(S) in 2006, Siddaramaiah too had announced his exit from the party and joined the Congress.
The collapse of the JD(S)-BJP coalition paved the way for polls which saw the saffron party form its first government in the south in 2008.
This time around, it remains to be seen how the three parties will react if the polls throw up a hung Assembly again, considering Kumaraswamy has said: "There is no question of going with the BJP."
Updated Date: May 19, 2018 16:22:56 IST