As one steps into a brand new year, it would be in place to reflect on the `world of possibilities` in Karnataka politics. With the Lok Sabha elections due in the first half of the year, this crucial elections will clearly occupy centre-stage. Equally critical will be the emerging developments in the coalition government in the state.
When H. D. Kumaraswamy assumed office as Chief Minister, many had predicted that his remaining in power till the end of the year would be nothing short of a political miracle! One must concede on the first day of a new year, that politics is about the unexpected miracles!
Even though the Congress-JDS coalition government still continues to be in power, many would not want to place a bet on how long it would remain in office!
The latest flashpoint has been the Ministry expansion and the manner in which the portfolios were re-allocated among the Congress ministers. Two major challenges raise questions on the future stability of the government.
Firstly, how does the Congress deal with the heartburn and disquiet within the party. Every MLA (and MLC) nursed an ambition of becoming a Minister. Those who could not be `accommodated` need to be appeased, comforted and brought around.
The portfolio allocation had its own share of hiccups. Let's remember that the portfolio battle is a `proxy war` among state level leaders, maeouvering to gain an advantage. This could seriously side track the focus away from the Lok Sabha elections.
Secondly, the manner in which the Congress party went public with the portfolio allocation without waiting for a formal word from the Chief Minister/Governor’s office, has not found favour with the JDS. The differences are likely to escalate with the dialogue on the seat sharing for the Lok Sabha polls. While the `electoral arithmetic` may be easy to work out, the `political chemistry` may still prove explosive. Given the fact that in many seats of the Old Mysore region, the real fight in the last Lok Sabha polls was between the Congress and JDS, the seat sharing would involve agonizingly painful negotiations. This could clearly leave the alliance on the `back-foot` with more energy lost in hammering out a compromise formula rather than putting up a credible fight against its opponent.
The BJP of course has its own share of challenges. The groupism within the party is clearly out in the open. This is one state unit that is clear not aligned to its national agenda, goals and leadership. In the Assembly polls the party lost its bid to secure a majority on account of this infighting as reflected in the wrong choice of candidates in crucial seats and a campaign that lacked coordination at the local level. As the election later this year is a national one, the expectation clearly is that the party would want to micro-manage its strategy, choice of candidates and campaign from the centre. Would this help underplay the impact of dissensions at the state level is the key question?
One is likely to see many an exciting twist in the coming weeks. Whether the JDS-Congress can overcome their internal contradictions and put up a united from before the Karnataka voter or whether the BJP ensures a spirited and united campaign and repeats its 2014 performance, would be the key question.
(Sandeep Shastri is Pro Vice Chancellor of Jain Deemed to be University)