Keeping mid-term elections at bay is top of mind for the Karnataka CM
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has finally taken the plunge to expand his ministry by inducting two Independents with the hope that the dissidents in the ruling combine will behave themselves for fear of a mid-term election.
The two Independents have, in the past, flip-flopped from the JDS-Congress to the BJP and vice-versa depending upon which side of the bread appeared to have more butter. In the latest move, R Shankar and H Nagesh got lucky.
Both Shankar and Nagesh were inducted into the ministry after the leadership of the JDS and the Congress jointly decided that the dissidents in their own parties could be kept under some control under the provisions of the anti-defection law.
“The only choice for the dissidents would be to resign from the membership of the assembly. If that happens, it would mean the BJP has launched Operation Kamala which is very much against the diktats of their party’s strongman Amit Shah,” a senior leader said on condition of anonymity.
The coalition partners of 13 months did not feel particularly nice after the disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha elections (losing 26 out of 28). But felt much relieved when the BJP president and Union home minister Amit Shah told his party men in Karnataka not to indulge in Operation Kamala
These instructions came soon after the union ministry was constituted after the BJP won a massive victory to rule the country for a second consecutive term. BJP leaders looked at this diktat as an indication that the central leadership would prefer the coalition government to collapse on its own, forcing mid-term elections.
The decision also carried the message that if Operation Kamala is not launched now, the chances of BS Yeddyurappa again becoming the chief minister would be very dim. To the BJP leaders, it meant that the central leadership would prefer someone who is younger and who will be still under its control unlike the former chief minister.
“Removing Yeddyurappa from power would have the same implications like the Congress faced from the Lingayat community when Veerendra Patil was removed from chief ministership,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be identified as he belongs to section in the party which is opposed to Yeddyurappa.
The removal of Veerendra Patil, who had suffered a stroke, in 1990 by then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi, had ensured that the Lingayats decidedly voted against the Congress. This first benefited the Janata Dal and subsequently Ramakrishna Hegde transferred the vote to the BJP through the poll alliance in 1999.
In short, to easily push Yeddyurappa firmly into the Margadarshak Mandal - he is already 76 - the party leadership seems to prefer waiting for the coalition partners to fight among themselves so much that people would prefer the BJP.
The only aspect that appears to be giving some kind of hope to the leaders of the coalition government is that no legislator is prepared to go back to the people for another election. That is one reason why Kumaraswamy continues to smile.