Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) has no ideological barrier, open to offers from both BJP and INC

JD(S) chief HD Kumaraswamy claimed that his party is open to forming a coalition with both BJP and Congress if his demands are met by them.

Kumaraswamy's JD(S) has no ideological barrier, open to offers from both BJP and INC

Drawing conclusions from the exit polls, the majority of which predict a hung assembly in Karnataka, even after calling them “manipulative”, Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy told the Deccan Herald that he is open to offers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) party to form a coalition government.

Most exit polls have predicted that the JD(S) can be a kingmaker and Kumaraswamy, like in 2018, may demand the chief minister’s position in return for his support. However, the Deccan Herald reported that Kumaraswamy will only go with the party that fulfils his demands.

According to the newspaper, Kumaraswamy, whose father HD Devegowda was once the prime minister and a bitter opponent of the BJP, the JD(S) has no ideological barrier in forming a coalition government with either. Contrary to the exit polls’ predictions, the former chief minister is confident of winning over 50 seats in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly.

The JD(S) went on an alliance with the BJP in 2006, despite its ideological commitment to ‘secularism’, and Kumaraswamy became the chief minister for the first time. However, that relationship was full of hiccups, causing severe issues for him and the JD(S).

In 2018, the INC, seeing a hung assembly offered Kumaraswamy the chief minister’s post to stop the BJP. However, Kumaraswamy alleged that the coalition too had its issues. His government was toppled by the BJP, which managed to wean away a significant number of members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) from both JD(S) and INC in 2019.

So, bitten twice, an extra-cautious Kumaraswamy wants a few guarantees before entering any alliance, according to the Deccan Herald.

Firstly, he wants a free hand to run the government as a chief minister and also needs plum portfolios like water resources, power and Public Works Department.

Secondly, the JD(S) chief doesn’t want any coordination committee, unlike 2018, to be formed in the state to manage the government’s functioning.

Thirdly, Kumaraswamy wants the coalition partner to stay away from the JD(S) territories like Hassan and Mandya.

Finally, he wants that no ideological decisions should be made by the coalition partner without discussing it with the JD(S) and him.

Although the poll results will be out on Saturday, May 13th, and exit poll predictions are often misleading, the JD(S) chief has opened his cards to provide a window of opportunity to the other two major parties.

From the current scenario, it’s more likely that the JD(S) would stitch an alliance with the BJP to prevent a mid-term coup by the saffron party, like in 2018. For the INC, it’s crucial to stop the incumbent BJP’s juggernaut in Karnataka, but for the JD(S), which once lost its mantle and MLAs to the BJP’s poaching drive, it’s important to remain afloat in the most difficult times and remain politically relevant in a polarised state like Karnataka.

Although the Opposition in India expects Devegowda to support a coalition against the BJP, it’s unlikely that the veteran leader will risk the political fortunes of his son for the sake of ‘secularism’, which has been reduced to mere tokenism by his party since the mid-2000s.

However, even if the JD(S) forms an alliance with the BJP, which exit polls predict to be the first runner-up in the Karnataka Assembly elections, it’s unlikely that its demands will be met by the saffron party, which needs to retain its political hegemony on the state.

In that case, not only the JD(S) will turn into a mere puppet in the hands of the BJP, but its political relevance will be challenged in the long run. Whether Kumaraswamy and Devegowda can forget about the toppling of the JD(S)-INC coalition in 2019 and forgive the BJP for another tryst with power can be seen after the results are declared on Saturday.

Tanmoy Ibrahim is a journalist who writes extensively on geopolitics and political economy. During his two-decade-long career, he has written extensively on the economic aspects behind the rise of the ultra-right forces and communalism in India. A life-long student of the dynamic praxis of geopolitics, he emphasises the need for a multipolar world with multilateral ties for a peaceful future for all.

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