After Bad Starter Marriage, Congress And HD Kumaraswamy Give It Another Shot

HD Kumaraswamy's earlier term was marked by allegations of corruption and links to illegal mining.

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JDS' Kumaraswamy starts second term as Karnataka Chief Minister in alliance with the Congress

Bengaluru, Karnataka: 

Highlights

  1. HD Kumaraswamy starts second term as Karnataka Chief Minister
  2. His party's earlier alliance with Congress ended in tatters
  3. Reunion caused by no party getting outright majority

HD Kumaraswamy starts his new job as Chief Minister of Karnataka with the benefit of hindsight- he has held the office once earlier and returns to it in a renewal of vows with the Congress, with whom his party had a starter marriage in 2004.

That relationship ended with plenty of hard feelings and a hangover of angst that prevented Mr Kumaraswamy, 58, from allying with the Congress ahead of this year's election in his home state.

Karnataka chose, as it has for the last three decades, to eject the party in power - the Congress - but did not endow the BJP with an outright majority. That forced the Congress into a crash course in political management. With out-of-character agility, flexibility and speed,  the party locked Mr Kumaraswamy into a post-election partnership, agreeing that though it won far more seats than Mr Kumaraswamy's party, he would be the Chief Minister; as compensation, the Congress secured the post of Deputy Chief Minister and the majority of ministries.

The earlier Congress-JDS coalition government was  headed by a Congressman, Dharam Singh, with Siddaramaiah of the JDS as his deputy.  Mr Siddaramaiah was considered the protege of Deve Gowda, who is Mr Kumaraswamy's father and by then had already served as Prime Minister of the country.

Two developments completely reshaped the political continuum: Mr Gowda began to promote his son over Mr Siddaramaiah; and Mr Kumaraswamy led a stealth attack which brought down his party's government with the Congress and installed him as Chief Minister with the BJP as his new consort.

hd kumaraswamy

HD Kumaraswamy's oath-taking ceremony is attended by a constellation of political notables

Mr Gowda was hospitalized for several months, laid up by what he described as his son's betrayal.  Mr Siddaramaiah strode out of their party and into the Congress, triggering a hostility with Mr Kumaraswamy that remains unresolved over a decade later.  As for Mr Kumaraswamy, he served as Chief Minister for 20 months before ditching the BJP at the altar -when it was his turn to step down and allow a BJP candidate to become Chief Minister, part of a rotational agreement between the two sides, he decided he was altogether done with the whole act.

Like some other heads of Karnataka - most notably, BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP - Mr Kumaraswamy's term was marked by allegations of corruption and links to illegal mining.  A sweeter spot was provided by his famous "village stays" - sleepovers that saw him soliciting feedback from farmers and the poor.  Like his father, Mr Kumaraswamy operated (then and now) under the regular influence of astrologers and routinely visits temples.

In 2013, Mr Siddaramaiah became Chief Minister of the Congress government in Karnataka; ahead of this month's election, the party said it could not entertain the prospect of an alliance with Mr Kumaraswamy, a hardliner approach driven by Mr Siddaramaiah.

The JD(S) seemed less averse to the idea.  As a series of opinion and exit polls predicted a fractured result and the role of king-maker for the JD(S), Mr Gowda told NDTV that he "would disown his son if he fastened the party yet again to the BJP, which, he said, would punch large holes in his fight for secularism.

hd kumaraswamy

HD Kumaraswamy's party, the JDS' earlier alliance with the Congress ended in tatters


Mr Kumaraswamy, showing signs of reinvigoration and drawing large audiences at rallies especially in areas dominated by his caste, the Vokkaligas, said only that he was confident that he would be king, not king-maker. Just four months after a heart surgery, he was out campaigning for hours. Often at his side, his wife Anita, who is believed to have political ambitions too.

When the BJP emerged with the most seats but not enough to form a government on its own, the Congress proposed to the JD(S) which quickly said "I do". Governor Vajubhai Vala disregarded their joint claim to take a trust vote (together, they had more legislators than the BJP) and Mr Yeddyurappa was sworn in as Chief Minister. The Congress petitioned the Supreme Court which said Mr Yeddyurappa would have 48 hours, not 15 days as decided by Governor Vala, to prove his majority.  Just before the vote was to be held, Mr Yeddyurappa resigned, knowing that he would lose.

Mr Kumaraswamy's oath-taking ceremony today was attended by a constellation of political notables- strong regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati  - to signal that the opposition gets that to block a second term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it needs to consolidate, exercising alliances in different states to defeat the BJP.

The Congress, for its part, is now tutored in the understanding that it may, in some states, have to prop up regional bosses rather than the other way around.

Mr Kumaraswamy, finally, has clambered up to the top again though not without the weight of what is likely to be an exacting alliance -and the threat of the BJP chipping away at legislators from both his own party and the Congress to collapse the new government.

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