Bengaluru: When the Janata Dal (Secular) entered into a post alliance with the Congress following Assembly elections in May 2018, and went on to form a shaky government, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had said nothing will happen to his ministry till Lok Sabha polls.
Now that the Lok Sabha polls are round the corner in Karnataka, the alliance is showing signs of a break up.
Two factors would contribute to this process – defeat of HDK’s son Nikhil in Mandya and, secondly, the sudden drop in numbers in Assembly if the three sitting MLAs of the Congress manage to win the Lok Sabha elections.
But key to the survival of the government will be the outcome in the sugarcane belt of Mandya Lok Sabha seat. Nikhil, like his role in his forthcoming film Abhimanyu, is fighting a losing battle to Sumalatha Ambareesh, the widow of actor-hero Ambareesh who lorded over the entire sugarcane belt.
It is almost certain that Nikhil will lose. Sumalatha, an accomplished actor herself, has been gaining popularity, sympathy and support from across the political spectrum and a galaxy of film stars from Karnataka. She has the support of numerous fans of Ambareesh for whom he was a god-figure.
Nikhil’s defeat will surely rattle the JD(S)-Congress alliance. Kumaraswamy is a highly emotional man and loves his son. He will not take the defeat of Nikhil lightly. And to make matters worse, if his brother HD Revanna’s son Prajwal manages to win from Hassan, which he is likely to, Kumaraswamy will be a shattered man.
Kumaraswamy propped up his son in a bitter family rivalry to inherit the JD(S) mantle for the next generation. Nikhil’s defeat will thus change even the family equations within the JD(S) parivar comprising grand old patriarch H D Deve Gowda, his sons HDK and Revana and, now, grandchildren Nikhil and Prajwal.
If Nikhil is defeated, it will be not surprising if Kumaraswamy resigns, which he has threatened multiple times, and throws the coalition in to a disarray. That will lead to the end of the coalition in Karnataka.
The second factor: Apart from the Nikhil factor, the coalition will be in deep trouble after the Lok Sabha elections if three of the sitting MLAs of the Congress get elected. This will make Kumaraswamy government’s majority in the Assembly wafer-thin.
If they win, the Congress MLAs must give up their assembly seats which would reduce numbers of the coalition. The Congress’s strength could fall to 76 and would reduce the coalition numbers to 114 in the legislative assembly.
Meanwhile, three Congress MLAs — besides Umesh Jadhav who have resigned from the Congress — are facing disqualification proceedings. If the speaker rules against them, the number of Congress legislators could further fall to 73. That would put the coalition’s strength at 111 in a house of 216 members. The coalition government will then have just three members more than the magic figure of 109 — the halfway mark.
This could lead to a Goa type of situation. The BJP could once more launch Operation Lotus (poaching of MLAs). Past experience shows that getting three or four MLAs is not a huge task for the BJP.
BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa predicted this situation when he had said that the JD(S)-Congress government will fall within 48 hours of the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll results on May 23. “We need not do anything to pull this government down. It will fall on its own because of the falling number of its MLAs. Forget Congress legislators contesting Lok Sabha polls, there are far more MLAs ready to desert the party.”
In coming days, the Congress has multiple front to fight. One is, of course, the Nikhil factor, the second is that the three MLAs facing disqualification could cross over to the BJP and seek re-election in bypolls as candidates of the saffron party and the third, defection.
The Congress leadership in Bengaluru is a worried lot on both fronts. Despite stern warnings, threats and pleadings, several Congress leaders from Mandya have openly refused to support Nikhil because, in the past, Kumaraswamy treated the Congress shabbily in Mandya, a Vokkaliga belt – the community of the Gowdas. In a way, the Congress workers in Mandya are taking revenge for past acts of Kumaraswamy and his father.
Kumaraswamy had tried to politically finish off the Congress in Mandya using the Vokkaliga tag. He had refused to share power with the Congress in local bodies in Mandya. Nikhil is now bearing the cross for his father’s past acts.
Interesting days ahead in Karnataka.