The Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition in Karnataka is hoping to fill the three vacant ministerial berths between the two parties to quell growing dissent among its ranks that continues to be the biggest threat facing the year-old H.D.Kumaraswamy-led government.
Though the two parties have constantly blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to destabilise the government, most of the trouble in the last one year has come from within the alliance.
Already having suffered a drubbing at the hands of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, the coalition taking all precautions to retain power in Karnataka despite the conspicuous uneasiness and mutual distrust between the traditional rivals, who formed an alliance with the sole objective of keeping the BJP out of power in the state after last year’s hung verdict.
“For now there is only discussion about filling up the three vacant berths. We are not trying anything else at the moment," a Congress legislator said, requesting not to be named.
The JD(S) has two vacant berths and the Congress has one after municipal administration minister C.S.Shivalli died in March.
Coalition leaders also dismissing speculation about a possible cabinet reshuffle and dropping some ministers to accommodate disgruntled elements--an exercise that has been one of the biggest factors for rising dissent within the two parties.
The coalition, that is sticking to each other despite its strained relations, sitting tight and unwilling to try anything that could further fuel simmering dissent. The threat of instability has been dangling over the year-old government ever since it undertook a similar exercise in December. Ramesh Jarkiholi, the sugar baron and legislator from Gokak, who was dropped from the cabinet last year, has since threatened not only to quit but also influence other disgruntled elements to defect to the BJP. Jarkiholi and Dr.Sudhakar, the Congress legislator from Chikkaballapura on Sunday had met senior BJP leaders at the residence of former Karnataka chief minister S.M.Krishna, sparking off speculation of an imminent exit. R.Roshan Baig, a former minister and senior Congress legislator had lashed out at the state leadership and even made a plea to minorities to consider voting for the BJP.
The BJP is confident that the coalition government will not last beyond a month as the distrust and animosity between the two became more evident during the parliamentary polls in which it was reduced to just one seat each. Riding a national wave led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the saffron outfit had swept 25 out of the 28 parliamentary seats in the state.
The wave had wiped out the Congress and the JD(S) including veteran leaders like H.D.Deve Gowda, Mallikarjun Kharge, M.Veerappa Moily and K.H.Muniyappa. Even Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil was defeated by an independent candidate who was backed by the BJP.
Upset over steady flow of news portraying the imminent collapse of the government, Kumaraswamy has since refrained from talking to the press and even mooted plans to regulate TV news channels. A JD(S) worker has filed a case against senior journalist and editor of Kannada daily Vishwavani, after the publication carried a source based article stating how Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil had a meltdown and accused his grandfather Deve Gowda of not ensuring his victory from Mandya. Nikhil’s cousin Prajwal Revanna is the sole winner from the Deve Gowda-led party.