What’s going on behind the scenes in Karnataka — Congress, BJP backroom talks with JD(S)?

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What’s going on behind the scenes in Karnataka — Congress, BJP backroom talks with JD(S)?

This pithy quote from Winston Churchill so aptly sums up politics: “In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times.”

Now take this quote from Newt Gingrich as a telling commentary on the Karnataka Assembly polls the results of which will be out tomorrow (May 15): “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

This is precisely what the movers and shakers of Karnataka politics seem to be doing behind the scenes ahead of counting of votes on Tuesday.

All the three stakeholders – the ruling Congress, the favourite of most exit polls, the BJP, and the perceived kingmaker regional party Janata Dal(Secular) – is doing exactly this. It is practicing perseverance after getting tired of doing the hard work it has already done.

maya_051418123229.jpgThe ‘kingmaker’ and his Dailt connect

All three parties are working on the likely scenario following the exit polls that Karnataka election results may throw up a hung House with the JD(S) as the likely bride with two suitors on its hot pursuit – the Congress and the BJP.

JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy left for Singapore hours after the voting ended on May 12, ostensibly to avoid the prying media. However, he is constantly in touch with both the BJP and the Congress.

The Congress has thrown a spanner in the works by indicating that it would be game to drop its chief ministerial candidate Siddaramaiah, an anathema to the JD(S), to keep its hopes alive of forming the government with the help of the regional party in case of a hung Assembly.

After all, the Congress party is still smarting under the eventual political outcome in states like Goa and Meghalaya, where the BJP managed to form government with the help of allies though the Congress was ahead of the BJP in the numbers game.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has said on record that while he is willing to stay on as chief minister for another term, he would step aside for a Dalit candidate if the party high command so desired, indicating that the Congress would be game to sacrifice Siddaramaiah to keep Deve Gowda on its side. It’s an open secret that Deve Gowda has no love lost for Siddaramaiah who once belonged to his party and was sacked.

sidd_040318061826_051418123251.jpgClearing the decks for a Dalit CM?

At the same time, the 69-year-old Siddaramaiah has dangled forth a loaded statement: “I am not against anybody. You see, even the MLAs also have to give their opinion.”

Obviously, in the event of a hung House, the Congress cannot get support of the JD(S) with Siddaramaiah still in the picture as the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate. Therefore, the Congress party is bracing itself for a scenario where in the event of a hung House in Karnataka it manages the JD(S) support on the Dalit card and expends Siddaramaiah. Anything is possible in power politics. After all, it is the “responsibility” of the Congress to reach out to the JD(S) if it fails to get majority, as Deve Gowda’s party has said so bluntly.

The grand old party’s Dalit card has caught both the BJP and the JD(S) unawares and put them in a fix. The JD(S) cannot ignore the Dalit factor, otherwise it will be the regional party’s political funeral. The BJP too will have to go back to the drawing board if the results on Tuesday throw up a hung House and may have to launch a search expedition for a suitable Dalit leader.

From the Congress viewpoint, this means that suddenly three Dalit leaders of the Congress from the state are in the reckoning for the post of chief minister in the event of a minority Congress government in Karnataka with the help of the JD(S) crutches: Mallikarjun Kharge, G Parameshwara and KH Muniyappa.

For his part, Deve Gowda, who has had alliances with both the Congress and the BJP earlier, has ruled out an alliance with the BJP. Though the former prime minister has merely played to the gallery, the wily old fox is known to be capable of pulling off surprises of the wildest and unimaginable kind. Neither of the two major parties, the Congress and the BJP, can afford to take him on his word. Deve Gowda will extract his pound of flesh before taking sides. The BJP in particular has to remain mindful of the fact that Deve Gowda has already formed a tie-up with the BJP’s robust enemy, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati which will extend to the Lok Sabha elections.

Yet the question of chief ministership is open in the event of the Congress forming government as indicated by Siddaramaiah’s cabinet colleague DK Shivakumar, who shares his Vokkaliga roots with Deve Gowda, thus: “We will decide who will be the chief minister later. But Siddaramaiah is our leader.”

The moral of the story is simple. The feisty Congress is trying everything to keep the BJP at bay; the BJP with far deeper pockets is majorly in the hunt; and the JD(S) is playing the role of a much sought-after bride. The political equations can swing from one extreme end to another in case the results throw up a hung House.

If the Kannadigas were to actually turn in a fractured mandate, an intricate political battle will inevitably ensue. Right now a net practice is going on among the major players. We will get to know tomorrow.

Also read: Modi is in Nepal, but Nepalis are unhappy with the visit

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