Karnataka results: Siddaramaiah, twin Bengaluru polls, trust deficit set to complicate matters for HD Kumaraswamy
The honeymoon period is usually a time for celebration but HD Kumaraswamy is still a prisoner of numbers.
The honeymoon period is usually a time for celebration but HD Kumaraswamy is still a prisoner of numbers. The Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) legislators are still housed in resorts and hotels, with their managers unwilling to take any chances with the fickle-minded loyalty gene. Only after the trust vote is done and dusted on Thursday will these MLAs will be free birds.
But the trust vote is not the only hurdle facing the new regime in Bengaluru. Here is a look at the ten challenges that 'Swamy and Friends' face in the short term:
1. The twin elections in Bengaluru: The first challenge will come up in the next two weeks, when elections are held to the Jayanagar and RR Nagar constituencies, both in Bengaluru. The Congress has made it clear it will aim to win both seats which means the pressure will be on the JD(S) to ask its candidates to lie low and transfer its vote to its partner candidates. A win for the Congress-JD(S) alliance will be interpreted as an endorsement from the public for keeping the BJP out of Vidhana Soudha.
Which is why the BJP is taking the two elections seriously: Union ministers Ananth Kumar and Sadananda Gowda, both MPs from Bengaluru, have been made incharges for the two seats. Expect the BJP to run an aggressive campaign and if it manages to win one or both seats, it is bound to unsettle a few legislators in the ruling camp.
2. The perception of being an opportunist: Kumaraswamy will have to battle the perception that he has stitched an opportunistic alliance for the sake of power. Though he has gone on record saying it is not the ideal situation in which he would have liked to become chief minister, if there is ugly bargaining for cabinet berths and other plum posts, it is bound to dent the image of the alliance. How well he manages the pressures while ensuring decent governance will be a challenge.
3. Cauvery: The pressure from Tamil Nadu is already mounting over Cauvery. Rajinikanth, a Bengalurean in his younger days, has already gone public with his expectation that the new regime will fulfil the Supreme court order. Kumaraswamy has invited Rajinikanth to come to Karnataka to see the empty reservoirs for himself. Unless Kumaraswamy displays statesmanship, the Cauvery fire will simmer once again. Brinkmanship will not help both states.
4. Agrarian distress: Over 3,500 farmers reportedly committed suicide in the five years of the Congress regime. The JD(S) calls itself a farmers' party and Deve Gowda a leader of the agrarian class. The government led by Kumaraswamy will be expected to have a agriculture policy that provides practical solutions to the issues on the ground.
5. Corruption: The BJP's decision to outsource the elections in districts in Hyderabad-Karnataka region to the Ballari gang disillusioned many of the party's supporters during the campaign. The Congress went to town, and criticised the party's embrace of corrupt elements. The irony is that the party is not short of MLAs from the mining and the real estate sector either, raising suspicion that the new government will be in their clutches. More so, if some of these legislators find place in the cabinet.
The Karnataka election saw money power in full swing, with voters also bribed in many constituencies. The amount of money seized by the Election Commission saw a 400 percent rise from the previous election. The alleged attempts by the BJP to bribe MLAs to cross sides also showed the seedy side of Karnataka politics. With corruption occupying centre stage, the Kumaraswamy government will be expected to come down strongly on corruption and not let suitcases run the administration.
6. Lingayat lobby: The 20 Lingayat MLAs belonging to both parties will demand their pound of flesh for having stayed on despite aggressive overtures from the BJP. It is a lobby Kumaraswamy will have to accommodate lest they hold the sword of Damocles over his chief minister's chair.
7. South vs north Karnataka: The JD(S) is also seen as a south Karnataka party, with 26 of its 38 seats coming from this region. There is a danger here because a disproportionate interest in its bastion can sow the seeds of dissatisfaction in other parts of Karnataka and a feeling that they are left out of the governance matrix.
8. Siddaramaiah and Deve Gowda: The figure of Siddaramaiah will loom large over this government, even though he will not be part of it. The former chief minister has been elected as the leader of the Congress legislature party. The success or failure of the new regime will depend also on the Kumaraswamy-Siddaramaiah chemistry or lack of it.
Add to the mix HD Deve Gowda, who may well hold the remote control to the alliance. How much of a say will the temperamental Gowda have a say in the running of the government could also affect its longevity.
9. The BJP threat looms large: The political danger to the alliance cannot be ruled out. After all, with 117 MLAs, it is just five legislators above the half-way mark. The BJP, licking its wounds, can be expected to exploit the fissures in the alliance that will emerge in due course of time.
10. Trust deficit: With an overlap in the Congress-JD(S) vote bank, there is bound to be an element of trust deficit, especially in the junior partner. The JD(S) is bound to be circumspect about any attempt by the Congress to eat into the JD(S) constituency in due course of time and will resist any moves by the Congress to play big brother.
Kumaraswamy hails from the old Mysuru region which was home to celebrated author RK Narayan. But this real life, political 'Swamy and Friends' is not likely to have any of the innocence of the literary original.
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