It will be exactly one year on 23 May that H.D. Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the chief minister of Karnataka in a grand ceremony on the steps of the majestic Vidhana Soudha, turning it into one of the biggest platforms for alliance politics, in which, even traditional rivals had assembled to unite and take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre.
Hundreds of people lined the streets waving flags, exuberant at the sight of this hard fought unity that gave the opposition parties a chance to take on the BJP and its unstoppable victory run since 2014.
However, that picture of unity has remained just like the mahagathbandhan or grand alliance is in tatters--much like the coalition between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), in Karnataka.
“The journey of the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in the past year has been fruitful. My government has introduced flagship programmes such as farm loan waivers which was replicated by other states too," Kumaraswamy said in an interview on Wednesday.
The CM said that despite the “hindrances" and “artificial calamities" created by the BJP, the coalition has succeeded.
“As a coalition, there were minor hiccups that we overcame with proper coordination and rapport among all," he said, adding that he will continue in his position for a full five years.
“With your cooperation and inspiration, let the next four years also continue the same way," he added, thanking senior leaders of the Congress.
The two parties continue their alliance, but the nature in which the two have operated has kept the coalition on notice. The BJP strongly believes that the government will crumble under the weight of its own internal differences that came to the fore during the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. “This government has run to temples to resolve its own problems rather than listen to the people," said C.T. Ravi, general secretary of the state BJP and legislator from Chikmagalur.
From the clashes between former chief minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress and Kumaraswamy over presenting a full budget to the recent clamour around reinstating the former to the top post, the coalition has been defined by the bitterness the two sides share.
The alliance, in which the Congress gave up the top post to its smaller partner, could spell more trouble for party president Rahul Gandhi’s prime ministerial ambitions, if any regional party demands a similar deal, and if such a situation does arise after the general election results are announced.
In Karnataka, workers and leaders of both parties rebelled against their respective top leaders, unwilling to overcome their rivalry in places such as the old Mysuru region.
Congress leaders openly backed independent candidate Sumalatha Amarnath (Sumalatha Ambareesh) in the sugarcane growing district of Mandya, testing the resolve of Kumaraswamy, whose son Nikhil was named the candidate to represent the alliance. A defeat for Nikhil has the potential to bring this government down on its own.
A year on, Kumaraswamy, who calls himself “sandarbika shishu", which loosely translates into child of circumstances, continues to be at the mercy of those very same circumstances.