Can the Congress-JD(S) provide a stable government?

May 25, 2018 12:15 am | Updated June 07, 2018 09:38 pm IST

 Governor Vajubhai Vala flanked by Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara.

Governor Vajubhai Vala flanked by Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara.

YES | Abhishek Singhvi


This will be a model coalition government which will run its full term smoothly and successfully


Who are the naysayers to the above proposition? The ones who, with lightning speed on May 15, without verifying anything, staked claim to form the government? Are they the same people who wrote to the Governor on May 15 without attaching names, lists or signatures of those from their party? Are they the same ones who tried desperately till the last minute to form the government but failed? Are the doubters those who sought seven days time for the floor test? Are they the ones who, through the Attorney General, sought a secret ballot in the Supreme Court? Are they the ones whose Chief Minister, sitting in a solo Cabinet, announced on May 17 huge policy decisions, before the apex court said that this cannot be allowed until a majority is proven?

A well-founded fear

If I am right in every example above, then, obviously, the naysayers are expressing their frustration, anger, depression and desperation by shaking their heads in the negative. Implicit in their stand is also the well-founded fear that the likely stability of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government, formed through the crucible of a fire test comprising crude poaching and large amounts of money, will hugely erode and eventually decimate the support base of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The pessimists are also surprised and scared at the sight of the smooth, harmonious and cooperative approach to government formation under way, with egos being buried and gracious concessions being made.

Let the nation and the people of Karnataka rest assured that this will be a model coalition government that will run its full term smoothly and successfully; that this may well even be a model for prepoll alliances for 2019, the mere thought of which strikes terror into the hearts and minds of the BJP; and that this government will not merely last its full term but provide positive, good governance, including the continued benefits of diverse Bhagya schemes already operational in the State.

Vajpayee’s BJP v. Modi’s BJP

The people of Karnataka will listen to the optimists and the realists, not to those who vent their anger at losing their loaves and fishes, which was all they were seeking. Consider the desperation reflected in the multiple tapes that show flagrant seeking of votes in exchange for ministership and/or money. Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself faced the same situation in 1996. Did we ever hear of these shenanigans and see such political acrobatics from that BJP to cling to power at any cost? No wonder that large sections of the BJP itself (and the nation) lament the absence of magnanimity, decency, tolerance, inclusiveness and mutual respect in what passes off as today’s BJP as opposed to Mr. Vajpayee’s BJP.

I have no doubt that every day, for the next five years, the BJP will put up every kind of obstacle to good governance in Karnataka and hope to wrest power by hook or by crook. This is because the same characteristics which distinguish Mr. Vajpayee’s BJP from Narendra Modi’s BJP will operate even more brazenly — arrogance, an inability to digest defeat, manipulation, and a blind, mad obsession with a “Congress-mukt Bharat”, which shows megalomania, insecurity and an intolerance of democracy itself. Scarcely does the BJP realise that it is precisely this power-at-any-cost approach that exposes it more and more in the run-up to the 2019 elections and unites everyone in the political spectrum against it, including its own allies.

As told to Anuradha Raman

Abhishek Singhvi is an MP and a national spokesperson for the Congress

NO | Prakash Javadekar


This is an opportunistic, unprincipled and unholy alliance. Such alliances have an expiry date


The result of the Karnataka elections provides for an interesting analysis. The Congress lost decisively. It was the ruling party in 2013 with 122 seats; the number of seats it won this time came down to 78. Siddaramaiah himself lost in one constituency and survived in another by a sliver of a margin – 1,500-odd votes. This meant a complete rejection of the incumbent government. Sixteen ministers from his Cabinet lost. This is a huge defeat. The Congress has been rejected lock, stock and barrel.

The second aspect of the elections is that if there is a mandate for any party, it is for the BJP. We were 40 in 2013, and this time we came within striking distance of a majority with a tally of 104 — eight short of majority. The shortfall could be attributed to several reasons. But we were the single-largest party with the biggest mandate. The JD(S) too lost three seats. From 40, it came down to 37.

Unnatural allies

The JD(S) and the Congress are not natural allies. The level of acrimony that they displayed towards each other at the peak of the electoral process was the worst kind seen in politics. And what was the main promise of the JD(S)? It was to investigate corruption in the Siddaramaiah government. And what was the promise made by the Congress? That the party will not ally with the JD(S) as it is the “B-team” of the BJP, a charge made by Rahul Gandhi. Both parties have broken their promises. That’s why we maintain that this is an unholy alliance. They have come together for two things. One, this is a surrender deal of the Congress. For, if the BJP had come to power, Mr. Siddaramaiah would have been in jail because of large-scale corruption in his government. Now the deal is, “Don’t investigate our corruption.” And from the JD(S)’s side, this is a godsend for H.D. Kumaraswamy to become the Chief Minister and therefore the party will be willing to accept any demand made by the Congress. The alliance is unholy, unprincipled and a betrayal of the people’s mandate.

Negative politics

It is also negative politics on display. You cannot make a virtue of hate politics. You hate a personality because you cannot defeat him on your own. This illusion created by political parties to show opposition unity will not fool anyone as it is not based on any ideology. These parties want to come together to stop Mr. Modi and the BJP. It is just opportunistic, negative politics. There is no common programme. They have cobbled together the numbers with no common minimum programme even as the Chief Minister has been sworn in. Such coalitions don’t work for long. Mr. Kumaraswamy’s father and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda has experienced this before as the Congress had withdrawn support in 10 months. We have a long history of such alliances collapsing.

Finally, what was the mandate? It was for governance and a change in regime. Both have been subverted by this alliance/arrangement. But in democracy, numbers are important. The two parties don’t trust their own MLAs. We have not locked up our MLAs in hotels, have we? But look at the two parties which have kept their MLAs captive to this day, preventing them from even going to their constituencies to thank their supporters. Therefore, I am sure that opportunistic alliances such as this have an expiry date. I am not an astrologer. Whether this government will survive is a different question. They have compromised on principles.

As told to Anuradha Raman

Prakash Javadekar is the Union Minister for Human Resource Development



The durability of this coalition is going to be a test for the cohesiveness of the party system


Past experience with post-poll coalitions in Karnataka as well as the palpable tension within the current JD(S)-Congress partnership have obviously cast doubts on the stability of the government. However, in the larger political context in which this coalition has emerged, stability in terms of completing five years, or even most part of it, in office is not the main issue.

This coalition assumes significance for the inherent messages that it has sent out. The Congress virtually surrendered to its rival JD(S) to make this coalition possible to prove that that the Modi-Amit Shah duo, which seemed unstoppable in winning elections and turning every fractured mandate to its favour, is not invincible every time. The Congress also showed that should the situation demand, it is ready to go out of its way to be accommodative and work with the Opposition to keep the BJP out of power. In the psychological warfare that elections have been reduced to, the Congress has most importantly realised that messaging is a crucial weapon in its battle for survival. What is relevant therefore is whether the government lasts long enough for these messages to have the intended effect on national politics, if at all.

The JD(S) perspective

One is tempted to assume that the threat to survival will dissuade either of the coalition partners from sinking the boat. The problem in this assumption is that the threat to survival is not equally shared by both parties. For the JD(S), this threat is not as intense as it is to the Congress. The JD(S) has an alternative potential partner in the BJP, unlike the Congress. The moment the JD(S) finds the Congress an unfaithful ally for real or fictional reasons, it can walk out of the alliance to join hands with the BJP as it did in 2006, putting an abrupt end to its coalition with the Congress. Such a move might embarrass Mr. Deve Gowda but it is not suicidal for the JD(S) to do so given its sociopolitical base in Karnataka. For the JD(S), despite its public posture, both the ideological commitment to secularism and the prospect of losing minority votes are negotiable.

Burden of accommodation

This uneven bargaining power structure of the partnership would place an ever-increasing burden of accommodation on the Congress’s shoulders. Administration and resource allocation are also going to be political deals between the partners in which the Congress should be ready for compromises. In the previous JD(S)-Congress coalition, one sore point was that the Gowdas got a disproportionately larger chunk of the State budget allocated to their home district, Hassan, which the Congress had to meekly approve. Such pinpricks will happen often and may even trigger a crisis unless the Congress is ready for even greater sacrifices.

Even if the JD(S) stays genuinely committed to the larger opposition unity and secular credentials, it is a challenge for the coalition partners to keep their flock intact. Political parties’ control over their legislators is growing weaker in India. A number of legislators in both the Congress and the JD(S) are recent crossovers and their personal clout is strong enough for them to keep their party affiliation shifting without affecting their electoral prospects. As a stung BJP waits to engineer a split in either or both coalition partners, these worldly wise legislators’ actions need not be bound by the ideological or political compulsions of their parties as much as their own practical calculations. Finally, therefore, the durability of this coalition is also going to be a test for the cohesiveness of the party system in India.

A. Narayana teaches political philosophy and Indian Politics, Law and Governance at Azim Premji University

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