Bengaluru, May 27, 2019: The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in Karnataka is determined to last the course despite a disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha election. Sources indicated that a cabinet expansion and reshuffle would happen soon.
On Sunday, Chief Minister, HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) met his predecessor from the Congress, Siddaramaiah. The two leaders discussed the political situation and survival strategy in the face of potential revival of what is referred to as "Operation Lotus". The term was first used in 2008, when the BJP was accused of inciting several opposition legislators to defect to ensure the stability of its government headed by BS Yeddyurappa.
However, Mr Yeddyurappa, who heads the BJP in Karnataka, ruled our partnering with Mr Kumaraswamy’s regional party to form a new state govenrent and said the BJP favoured fresh assembly polls if the coalition collapses.
The allies are are sticking closely together after the results that showed the coalition had completely failed against the BJP in Karnataka, with each party winning just one seat each out of the 28 they jointly contested.
Sources said Siddaramaiah had spoken to Congress legislators who have been openly criticising the party in recent days. It is believed that one legislator, Dr Sudhakar, who had described the coalition as an "unholy alliance" has been persuaded to stay with the party. But Ramesh Jarkiholi, brother of minister Satish Jarkiholi, seems all set to jump ship.
Numbers are crucial at this point. In the 224-member Karnataka assembly, the Congress-JD(S) coalition has 117 and the BJP 105, with 113 being the majority mark.
The BJP also is believed to have the support of the two independents. If the BJP is able to lure away a few legislators, they may be in a position to say that the government has lost its majority.
But that would mean overcoming the reluctance of many legislators who are facing a fresh election.
The election dealt several blows to the family of HD Deve Gowda. The JD(S) patriarch and former prime minister lost his election. And one of grandsons, Nikhil, lost to the BJP-backed independent and political novice, Sumalatha Ambareesh. She is the wife of Congress leader and Kannada superstar Ambareesh who died last year.
The sensitivity on the issue is clear - with a defamation case being filed against a journalist who wrote an article on Nikhil Kumaraswamy a few days ago. A First Information Report was filed against senior journalist Vishweshwar Bhat, following a complaint filed by a JD(S) leader for what he has written about Nikhil, who is the son of the Chief Minister. This has led to criticism against the state government by the BJP, which has earlier protested the arrest of other journalists in other cases, including that of a letter said to be falsely credited to home minister, MB Patil, on Lingayats.
The Congress is likely to have a meeting of its legislators on Wednesday, and that would make it clear who still is with the party and who isn’t.