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Karnataka: How the coalition unravelled

By A Correspondent in Bangalore
Last updated on: January 18, 2006 22:14 IST
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A faction of the Janata Dal (Secular), led by H D Kumaraswamy, thrid son of party supremo H D Deve Gowda, withdrew support to its coalition partner, the Congress, on Wednesday night.

The sudden political upheaval in the state was a result of growing discontentment in the JD-S regarding the Congress support to All India Progressive Janata Dal leader Siddaramaiah in the recent taluk and zilla panchayat elections.

The drastic turn came when the so-called young turks, headed by Kumaraswamy, decided to end the alliance on Tuesday night. Kumaraswamy held a meeting of 40-odd JD-S MLAs on the outskirts of Bangalore. As the meeting continued on Wednesday without the presence of senior leaders in the party, it became apparent that 18-month alliance between the JD-S and the Congress was ending.

Siddaramaiah, a former Deve Gowda loyalist, was deputy chief minister before he fell out with his mentor and was removed from his post and the party in 2005. Siddaramaiah then floated a federation of minorities, backward classes and dalits and formed the AIPJD. His party won many seats in the taluk and zilla panchayat elections and formed a tie-up with Congress in ruling many of these local bodies.

Party sources senior JD-S leaders including Deputy Chief Minister M P Prakash, Education Minister D Manjunath and Finance Minister P G R Sindhia had no inkling of Kumaraswany's moves.

On Tuesday, Sindhia said that the report of withdrawal of support to Congress was only a 'rumour'. The decision on  continuing the alliance would be taken only on February 8, he had stressed.

Political observers see this as division within the JD-S. The decision to withdraw support is seen as Kumaraswamy's alone and not of the party leadership, including Deve Gowda.

As Kumaraswamy and his supporters staked claim with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has 79 seats in the Karnataka assembly, senior JD-S ministers held an emergency cabinet meeting at the Vidhana Soudha.

However, there is more to be seen in the sudden political developments. Within JD-S itself there is a split or at least, a difference of opinion.

Though Kumaraswamy has 46 signatures of legislators out of 58, questions are being asked about the status of Prakash, who is the leader of the JD-S Legislative Party.

More importantly, the JD-S has been vehemently against the BJP and many leaders feel that any alliance with this party would negate the word 'secular' in the JD-S. It will be a coalition of 'strange bed fellows', party leaders feel.

On the other hand, the BJP is thrilled. Under an arrangement worked out with the JD-S, it will be given the deputy chief ministership. Its aim to pull down the government seems to have succeeded.

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A Correspondent in Bangalore