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Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy (centre) and deputy chief minister G. Parameshwara (right) in Bengaluru.
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy (centre) and deputy chief minister G. Parameshwara (right) in Bengaluru.

Can Congress, JD(S) defend their Karnataka fort?

For over a year now, Karnataka has been witness to a major political drama, with the Congress and Janata Dal (S) trying to defend their coalition government from a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

Mint takes a look at the developments in Karnataka.

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What is the crisis about?

With 105 out of 225 members in the assembly, BJP came to power for the second time in the state in May 2018, but chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa quit as the party was unable to cobble up a majority. H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), with 37 members in the assembly, and a Bahujan Samaj Party legislator, has since ruled the state with the support of Congress’ 79 members. The terms to ensure the smooth functioning of the alliance remain on paper as personalities have trumped polity and parties. Political discourse has been consumed by the friction between Kumaraswamy and his predecessor, Siddaramaiah.

Where do the political parties stand now?

JD(S), led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, believes it is important for it to be in power to keep its flock together. The Congress continues to support the coalition government, but a large section of the party has been advocating the benefits of sitting in the opposition benches to avoid the risk of ceding more ground and support to its alliance partner. This section says the party could have fared much better in the parliamentary polls had it fought on its own. The discord between JD(S) and Congress helped transfer votes to BJP, which swept the state by winning 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.

What’s next for the Congress and JD(S)?

The two parties are forced to continue the coalition that is already under severe strain. Several disenchanted leaders and workers may work against party interests and make BJP stronger.

What’s at stake for the Congress, JD(S) brass?

The defeat of Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil, in the Lok Sabha polls is a setback for the CM in the battle for dominance in the Deve Gowda clan, especially as Prajwal, son of Kumaraswamy’s brother, H.D. Revanna, won Hassan. Prajwal is being touted as the heir, forcing the CM to continue in power with the Congress, which he blames for the debacle. Siddaramaiah may lose clout as he failed to ensure the victories of Congress’ Lok Sabha candidates in his home district, Mysuru, and Bagalkot, from where he won the assembly polls in 2018.

What are the issues confronting BJP?

BJP has made inroads into the South, but still has a long way to go in the region. Its rivals in the South are regional parties and not the Congress, against which it has had a great record in the last few years. For BJP, forming the government in Karnataka would erase the tag of being a north Indian party, making it more approachable and allowing the grooming of local leaders. One dilemma for BJP is an ageing Yeddyurappa, who built the party in the state, but allegedly amassed wealth, has played favourites and even left the party once.

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