H.D. Kumaraswamy is making headlines for entering into an unholy alliance with the Congress and thereby defeating the public mandate for a BJP government in Karnataka. Before the elections, H.D. Kumaraswamy never looked to be in contention for the top post in Karnataka. However, power equations and political opportunism after the election results were announced, forced the Congress to offer the post of chief minister to Kumaraswamy. Kumaraswamy is thus, an accidental chief minister imposed upon Karnataka just like his father Deve Gowda had been once imposed as he prime minister upon India. This calls for knowing the antecedents and the rise of this unexpected chief minister.
H.D. Kumaraswamy did not have the smoothest of political careers. In fact, the reluctant politician never had much of a direct impact on Karnataka politics. JD(S) has always been just a regional satrap in Karnataka, and Kumaraswamy has more or less dependent on opportunistic alliances. In fact, he rose in Karnataka politics only by virtue of such an unholy alliance in 2004. Then, the circumstances in Karnataka were similar. BJP had emerged as the single largest party in the state but slightly short of majority. The JD(S) and the Congress forged an alliance to defeat the public mandate. 2018 in that sense seem to be a replay of what had happened in At that time, however, he was not able to become the chief minister and acted as the kingmaker. However, for political reasons he withdrew from the coalition within 20 months and the Dharam Singh government fell. If the events of 2004 are a reflection upon the current state of affairs, we can presume that the present JD(S)-Congress alliance is not going to last very long. In fact, H.D. Kumaraswamy is a lucrative kingmaker, but an unreliable ally. Congress has not been the only victim. In 2006, after parting ways with the Congress, JD(S) had entered into a coalition with the BJP, with a power sharing arrangement according to which Kumaraswamy was to serve as the chief minister for the first half of the tenure and a BJP leader for he rest of the tenure. However, after completing his half, Kumaraswamy withdrew support showing his desperation for political power.
Kumaraswamy did not only have a controversial political term as chief minister, but also a controversial political career. In fact, his career has taken so many opportunistic U-turns, that people have now lost count. Just in March this year, in an interview, he said that the Congress Party was more dangerous for the country than the BJP. But right before the elections, in another interview, he promised the people that he would seek neither the BJP nor the Congress Party’s support after the results. And after the results, he chose to go with the Congress Party, which offered him the chief minister’s chair. If reports are to be believed, the BJP offered him the deputy chief minister’s chair. Many believe he simply picked the highest bidder, although Kumaraswamy claims he chose the “secular” option over the communal one.
Infighting within his party is commonplace, since both Kumaraswamy and his brother Revanna have tried to carve out a space for themselves in the party. It is quite interesting to note that Kumaraswamy will be heading the state despite his party performing well in only one of the six regions of the state. It is quite well known that the infighting between the brothers goes down from every district to every village in that region. The Congress and the JD(S) have released tapes accusing the BJP of attempting to poach their MLAs, but Kumaraswamy was himself once caught on tape demanding massive bribes for a Rajya Sabha ticket.
Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony is likely to be an elaborate affair, with chief ministers from non-BJP ruled in attendance. However star-studded the ceremony may be, it remains to be seen whether this government can go past the floor test.