Bengaluru:H.D. Kumaraswamy, the state president of the Janata Dal (Secular), was on Wednesday sworn in as Karnataka’s chief minister in the presence of at least 15 leaders from various political parties in a ceremony that was seen more as a launch pad for combining efforts to take on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
The show of strength almost outdid that of the erstwhile Mahagatbandhan, a coalition of various political parties that came together before the Bihar elections about three years ago.
The swearing-in of Kumaraswamy and G. Parameshwara of the Congress as the deputy chief minister saw bitter foes, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and D. Raja of the Communist Party of India, share the same stage.
“The leaders have not come here to support my government. From here they want to give a message to the country that we are one," Kumaraswamy said, addressing his first press conference after assuming office.
Kumaraswamy took office after the JD(S) and the Congress struck a post-poll alliance after 15 May’s fractured verdict to deny the BJP, which emerged as the single-largest party in the assembly elections, a chance to add Karnataka to its long list of political conquests.
The BJP won 104 seats, the Congress got 78 and the JD(S)-Bahujan Samaj Party combine got 38 seats in the elections, all of them falling short of the 112 simple majority figure in the 224-member assembly.
Kumaraswamy took oath as the chief minister barely a week after his predecessor B. S. Yeddyurappa resigned after failing to coble up the numbers for a simple majority. The JD(S)-Congress combine is expected to conduct the mandated floor test on Friday, a day later than what Kumaraswamy had indicated earlier.
Kumaraswamy insisted that the newly-formed coalition will be stable and will function as a “model" coalition government, and he will “take each step carefully" to ensure he takes the entire coalition together to avoid a repeat of 2006, where the two parties had a bitter fallout after almost two years in power. He said development will be the first agenda and politics would be secondary.
Kumaraswamy said all decisions would be taken after proper consultation with the Congress and his deputy, Parameshwara, whom he described as the most “adjustable" person — a statement meant to quell any rumours of unilateral action by the JD(S) in the coalition.
Quoting from late South African President Nelson Mandela, Kumaraswamy said the government will fight against poverty and for justice for all.
On the contentious Lingayat minority religion row, Kumaraswamy said that the government had more important priorities.