Bengaluru: After simmering for over a year, the problems for the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) coalition boiled over in July, with mass resignations leading to the collapse of the 14-month-old H.D. Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka. Though the two parties accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of engineering the crisis, internal factors were equally—if not more—responsible for the collapse. The vision that Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony, in May last year, would herald a vigorous opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi lies in tatters, much like the fate of the coalition in Karnataka.
Former Prime Minister and JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda, who remained the binding force for all opposition parties in the country, could not save his son’s government that faced a threat to its stability since the day it was formed. The coalition accuses the BJP of trying to destabilise non-BJP governments across the country. In an interview with Mint, Gowda shared his thoughts on the Congress, BJP, building the JD(S) and the absence of an opposition party in India since Modi’s return to office. Edited excerpts:
What are your thoughts on the political developments in the last few weeks?
Not just a few weeks, there was always a hidden agenda from the day Kumaraswamy became CM. The (Congress) high command had earlier (2018) come up with good intention that secular parties must survive and that the BJP must not be given a chance in Karnataka. I had then also said no to Kumaraswamy becoming CM and said there were people like Mallikarjun Kharge, G.Parameshwara and K.H. Muniyappa. Congress top leaders did not pay much attention to what I said. After that, there was dissatisfaction among various people because a full cabinet was not formed, board and corporation chairmen were not announced. Kumaraswamy did as much as he could to bring everybody together.
When Kumaraswamy went to America, it exploded and they (the BJP) successfully lured legislators with big promises. Kumaraswamy is not upset that the CM post is gone but is happy that he can build the party peacefully now.
Couldn’t Congress-JD(S) have acted earlier on growing internal dissent?
There are several reasons and I don’t blame anyone for this. There is no use discussing this anymore. When the Congress high command asked Kumaraswamy to become CM, they should have first taken the opinion of their state leaders. No matter how much we tried, at the ground level there was no coalition. The cadre have fought each other and suffered a lot of pain.
Will the Congress and JD(S) continue their coalition?
There is no point thinking about this now. The Supreme Court is yet to render its order on the 17 petitions. Only after this does the issue resurface. People will decide on the rebels. The fight between the JD(S) and Congress had given the BJP scope to do well. We won’t contest all 17 seats. If the Congress wants to contest, let them do so. The heavens won’t fall if they do.
Do you also hold the Congress responsible for the crisis?
I don’t want to say, but again state the hasty decision taken by the high command.
On Siddaramaiah’s alleged role?
It is left to the people to decide.
Will it be easier to win back your workers without the coalition?
I will only think about building the party. It is up to the Congress to think about the coalition.
After my defeat in Tumakuru, I sit in the office every day to strengthen my party.
We are going to restructure the entire party. This is my biggest priority and challenge. I will start a tour of the state.
The three (former) legislators, including your former state president, resigned giving reasons including interference from your family members. Your comments?
I never expected that. They have been saying things to mislead people and have even attacked me. I don’t even want to comment on that gentleman (A.H.Vishwanath).
If the Congress and JD(S) win more seats in the bypoll, will you consider bringing back the coalition?
Let us wait and see as now is too early to comment.
Is there any truth in a possible alliance between JD(S) and the BJP?
You are talking about illusions and gossip. I am here to see that my party should fight against both the Congress and the BJP. I know how to fight back and have enough material to do so.
Do you think the BJP government will complete its term in office?
I am not bothered about if it will complete the remaining part of the term or just one year. They are a national party and I don’t think any state leader can go against any decision taken by Amit Shah or Narendra Modi. Yediyurappa knows that the coalition is split and there is no problem for him to continue for now.
Is there no opposition to Modi-Shah?
Some of the developments point to a Modi-Shah rule. Even Modi’s cabinet colleagues do not speak with him. When crucial bills came up, MPs either abstained or walked out. This itself is a symptom that there is no strong opposition in Delhi. There is no opposition left in this country.