Why Congress-JD(S) sing, I love you (like I hate you)
Both parties have a bitter past of harsh words, broken deals, stinging barbs. How long will their new romance last?
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While it is still not clear who will form the government in Karnataka, the JD(S) has indeed had its moment to shine. Though the Congress won more seats, the national party was forced to come begging to the JD(S) for a tie-up, even offering up the CM’s chair.
However, the spotlight also throws into relief the acrimonious campaign the two parties ran against each other, and raises questions on the stability of the government their alliance can even offer to the people of Karnataka.
The verdict has brought the JD(S) victory in more ways than one. Photo: PTI
For JD(S), the results bring the sweet taste of victory in more ways than one. While it has a shot at real power, its revenge on old baiter Siddaramaiah, the outgoing Congress chief minister, is complete.
Indeed, even during the campaign, the sharpest jibes by the JD(S) had been reserved for Siddaramiah, who had paid back in kind.
While the two parties’ manifestos are not really conflicting and indeed go well with each other on several points, it is their shared history of deals broken and promises not kept that bode trouble for any government they might run in coalition.
Threat to democracy, BJP’s B team
The outgoing CM Siddaramaiah lost both polls and pride. Photo: PTI
The JD(S)’s manifesto even began with a criticism of the Congress, though it had refrained from naming the BJP, mentioning only a “one party favors the pseudo ideology of Hindutva, without knowing the inclusiveness and plurality of Hindu Philosophy”.
But, on Congress, the manifesto said: “The Congress, with the enthusiasm of developing an AHINDA vote bank have treated every other community of the state with utter contempt. Even directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court were treated with utter disregard to put down the upward growth of other communities…. Even the most pious community of Lingaysts was divided by the Congress led Government. Political murders have become common in Bangalore, but the Government has not bothered about it.”
HD Kumaraswamy, the party’s state president and now the CM candidate, had said that “Poor Rahul Gandhi doesn’t know the ABCD of Karnataka politics… Before criticising us let Rahul Gandhi go to his mother and ask what was promised and why people rejected their party which was ruling (at the centre).” He had also said the Congress would use Karnataka as a cash cow to win other state elections.
Kumaraswamy’s most brutal attacks, however, were against Siddarmaiah. In an open letter addressed to the then CM, he had said: “I do not need lessons on secularism from a person like you, who has divided people for votes…Your frequent statements on defeating me in Ramanagaram smacks of revenge politics that you have cultivated to defeat others to grow in your life.”
Siddaramaiah, on his part, had asked minority communities to “beware of” the JD(S), which, he said, was likely to sidle up to the BJP for power.
Manifesto makes similar promises
Interestingly, the manifestos of both the Congress and the JD(S) focus on farmers’ issues, women’s welfare, and on developing Kannada language.
While the JD(S) offered a blanket loan waiver to farmers, weavers and artisans, the Congress talked of an agro-infrastructure corridor for farmers. While its manifesto does not mention loan waivers, party president Rahul Gandhi has promised that at the national level if his party wins Lok Sabha polls 2019.
Kumaraswamy has a history of not keeping his word to the BJP, the Congress, and even the JD(S). Photo: PTI
The JD(S) has promised free education for girls in all courses, something the incumbent Congress government had cleared up to post-graduation level in its most recent state budget.
But one point in the JD(S) manifesto seems pointedly against Siddaramiah’s policies. It says: “Power of Lokaukta will be enhanced… ACB (anti-corruption bureau) will be abolished.
Siddaramaiah had been accused of weakening the Lokayukta and strengthening the ACB, which was directly under him.
History’s shadow on future
The Congress and the JD(S) have a history of tripping each other up politically, although the JD(S) has not done a very good job of keeping its word to the BJP either.
In 1996, Congress president Sitaram Kesari had withdrawn support to the Union government headed by Deve Gowda, causing it to fall in 10 months.
If the Congress-JD(S) bonhomie does not last, the biggest gainer will be the BJP. Photo: PTI
Siddaramiah had broken away from the JD(S) in 2006 because he opposed the promotion of Kumaraswamy.
The Congress and the JD(S) had once before formed the government in Karntaka, in 2004. However, that government collapsed in 2006 after Kumaraswamy, along with 42 MLAs, rebelled and threw in their lot with the BJP.
Kumaraswamy became the CM, but one year later, resigned after refusing to pass the CM’s chair to the BJP, which had been their original deal.
The Karnataka verdict, thus, highlights past deeds to its main political players – many of whom must now learn to become karma chameleons.