Exit poll predictions of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surge in Karnataka have put the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government on notice.
The coalition of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), and the Congress, which has been battling threats from within now stares at the possibility of a bolstered BJP looking to replace it.
The Congress has rubbished exit poll results, while Kumaraswamy took to Twitter on Monday to state that the entire exercise was aimed at creating the false impression of a wave in favour of prime minister Narendra Modi.
“As they say, it is just an exit poll, not exact poll," Kumaraswamy wrote. “Exit polls are being used to create an impression that there is still a Modi wave in the country. This artificially engineered or manufactured Modi wave is being used by the BJP to lure regional parties well in advance to fill any shortfall after the results on 23 May," he tweeted.
The sentiments of the Kumaraswamy-led coalition mirror those of the ruling parties in other non-BJP states who fear that the BJP would make fresh attempts to destabilize their governments if it retains power at the centre.
The Congress, which has seen most of the trouble in Karnataka emanate from within its ranks, is keen to keep its flock together. A growing clamour calling for Siddaramaiah to be reinstated as chief minister has sparked heated exchanges between the coalition partners. Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday asked his party members to refrain from airing comments against the coalition government as the Congress does not want to be the one to pull out of the coalition first. As such, the alliance in Karnataka, that had become the biggest platform against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is now turning into one of the biggest problems for the coalition partners who can neither stick together nor part ways.
A. Narayana, a political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University, lists three reasons why the coalition may not survive.
“One is that the main purpose (fighting the BJP in parliamentary elections) of the alliance is achieved. Two, that state Congress does not appear to be very serious about carrying this any further. Three, the ill-will that has cropped up between the two parties is evident," he said.
The coalition now pins its hopes on a victory in Chincholi and Kundgol bypolls to remain in power and quell some of the dissent. However, it is also staring at the possibility of two more vacancies in the Assembly if Krishna Byre Gowda and Eshwar Khandre win from Bengaluru North and Bidar parliamentary seats.
The coalition has a total of 117 seats (including one independent) in the Lower House of the legislature. There are 78 Congress members, including the speaker, and 37 of the JD(S), and one from the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP has 104 members in the 224-seat House. Another independent, who was part of the coalition, has since pulled out.
With rebel Congress leaders such as Ramesh Jarkiholi making public statements about quitting Congress, the BJP is confident that it will be able to form the government on its own after the parliamentary results are out on 23 May as it would lay bare the divide between the two traditional rivals.
“We won’t have to form an alliance with any party. There are enough disgruntled legislators within the Congress and JD(S) who are willing to switch sides," said a senior BJP leader, requesting not to be named.