Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Karnataka faces a fresh crisis after horse trading charges rear up again

Allegations of poaching come when Congress-JDS combine is playing hardball on seat-sharing ahead of polls

Bengaluru: Almost eight months after wresting power from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following a fractured mandate in assembly elections, the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress alliance is still firmly invested in dispelling speculations on the stability of the government in Karnataka, with fresh reports of defections to the BJP gaining traction on Monday.

Though the BJP has denied allegations of poaching the coalition’s legislators and bringing down the government, the fresh crisis hit the H.D. Kumaraswamy government at a time when the alliance partners were playing hardball in the seat-sharing exercise for the parliamentary elections.

Adding to the woes of the ruling alliance is the fact that at least three Congress legislators have gone incommunicado. Local news reports said they were in Mumbai and were expected to meet senior BJP leaders. The legislators could not be reached for comment.

United, at least for the moment, the two parties have often accused the BJP of trying to bring down the already fragile state government.

The BJP, after at least two failed attempts at power, however, says that the internal differences between the two is a bigger threat to the coalition.

Former Karnataka chief minister B.S.Yeddyurappa on Monday said that it had become a habit for the coalition to accuse the BJP of trying to destabilize the government to mask it’s own inadequacies and differences. “They (coalition) are the ones trying to poach our legislators with the promise of money and ministerial berths," Yeddyurappa said in New Delhi, countering allegations against the BJP.

His statements come a day after Congress strongman and the state’s water resources minister D.K. Shivakumar threatened to expose the BJP’s plan to bring down the government.

The already fragile coalition, which has had its fair share of woes, has often played the victim card to justify the deep seated differences between the two parties. The Congress and JD(S) have fought each other fiercely over the decades, especially in south Karnataka where both have strong presence.

“We hope to keep this (coalition) going. The least we can say is that the Congress will not destabilize the government as it could hurt us badly," a senior leader of the party said, requesting anonymity.

Having lost out to the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the onus is on the Congress to keep its alliance prospects alive in Karnataka, and elsewhere, if it hopes to consolidate opposition forces to take on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP in the general elections.

Despite winning more seats in the assembly polls, the Congress had decided to make Kumaraswamy the face of the alliance government in the hope to use the regional party in reviving it’s fortunes nationally.

While there is palpable discontentment within the Congress and JD(S) for joining hands, the two parties are trying to set aside their differences and keep the coalition going, especially with the fast approaching Lok Sabha elections.

“They should treat us respectfully. They should not treat us as third grade citizens," Kumaraswamy said in an interview to the Press Trust of India, published on Monday.

The coalition and BJP have traded charges accusing each other of going after its legislators. Given that all the BJP legislators from Karnataka are currently in the national capital, the Congress and the JD(S) fears that it is another attempt to bring down the government.

Kumaraswamy added fuel to fire saying that he was well aware of the BJP’s sinister plans and Operation Kamala—a term coined in 2008 after the BJP poached opposition legislators to get a majority.

The BJP denied the allegations and maintained that it need not do much, but only wait for the differences between the Congress and the JD(S) to see the end of the alliance. The BJP had won 104 seats, only nine shy of the majority of 113 in the 224-seater House.

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