Former Prime Minister HD Devegowda said on Friday that there might be a mid-term poll in Karnataka while slamming his coalition partner Congress for not going through with the promised co-operation. Although the Chief Minister Kumaraswamy said that his father’s expression was misinterpreted and assured that the coalition will continue for a full five years, it’s an open secret that both the Congress and JDS have been complaining against each other of sabotage since the formation of the coalition government.
Definitely, there are issues between the Congress and JDS and why not? Even today, the Congress is the largest party in terms of vote share (in assembly elections) yet function as a junior partner to the distant number three political party of the state.
One can understand the political strategy of the Congress when they offered JDS the CM post. The first aim was not to allow the BJP to form the government and second was that there might be a benefit in Parliament elections if both JDS and Congress contest the election as an alliance partner. Karnataka is always generous to BJP in parliamentary elections. What the Congress has forgotten that incompatible alliances don’t work. It was earlier proved in the case of Left-Congress alliance in West Bengal in 2016, the Congress-TDP alliance in Telangana in 2018 and the Congress-SP alliance in 2017 UP assembly election. Like the SP-BSP alliance failed in UP to stop the BJP, similarly, the Congress-JDS too suffered decimation during 2019’s general election.
Now the question is should Congress continue with the fragile coalition with JDS? Before that let me give you some numbers to understand why Congress and JDS are an incompatible alliance. Let’s start from the 2008 assembly election. The vote shares of Congress, BJP and JDS were 35.13%, 33.86%, and 19.44%. The seats won by these parties were 80, 110 and 28 respectively. A point to be noted that the Congress has the largest vote share although its seats were 30 less than that of the BJP.
Then, let’s look at the 2013 assembly election. The Congress got 36.6% vote share which is again the largest. It’s the election when BSY left BJP and formed a party KJP (Karnataka Janata Pakshya). BJP and KJP got 19.9% and 9.8% respectively and their combined vote share were 29.7%. Congress got 122 seats followed by BJP and JDS 40 each. Congress definitely benefited in terms of seats because of a split in BJP but the point is that the combined vote share of BJP and KJP was still less than the Congress.
Now let’s see the 2018 assembly election numbers. The vote share of Congress, BJP and JDS are 38.14%, 36.34%, and 18.3% respectively. As per the number of seats, BJP is the largest party with 104 seats, Congress next with 80 seats and JDS is a distant third with 37 seats. But then in vote share, Congress is still the largest party.
Now it can be understood that since 2008 (even before) Congress always has got the largest vote share irrespective of whether it’s largest or second largest in terms of the number of seats won. What does it mean?
It means that Congress is the pan-Karnataka Party whereas BJP and JDS have their own area of domination. Factually wherever BJP is strong, JDS presence is insignificant and wherever JDS is strong, BJP presence is significant. That means Congress’s main rival is either BJP or JDS considering their area of dominance. That’s why I say JDS and Congress alliance is an incompatible alliance. Because the seats went to JDS are in fact Congress-JDS rival seats whereas seats went to Congress are mostly Congress-BJP rival seats. That’s why Congress-JDS bite dust in the 2019 general election. Most of JDS seats lost due to non-transfer of Congress votes. Technically speaking, the ideal alliance would have been BJP and JDS because in every seat they would find Congress as the main contestant.
Anyway, whatever happened has happened. Now, what is the way ahead for Congress? Should it continue with this fragile alliance earning more anti-incumbency? I would suggest that Congress should get itself out from the coalition as immediately as possible. It need not think about who will form the government. If there’s a BJP-JDS government let that be. At least in 2023 assembly election, Congress can be back to power with a resounding mandate because of it’s largest vote share and the probable anti-incumbency of BJP or BJP-JDS government.
One thing must be noted that although BSY tries a lot to do operation Kamala-2 to buy some MLAs for a BJP government at Karnataka, But the central leadership of BJP isn’t interested in two reasons. They know that BSY is desperate and second the government can’t be stable with break-away members. Thus, anti-incumbency would be huge. Second, there might not be a BJP-JDS government because of inherent contradictions. Thus, BJP also may wish for a mid-term poll and by that time, BSY would have attained retire age of 75 as fixed by the new dispensation of BJP central leadership.
Thus, before JDS plays the victim card in withdrawing from the government, Congress should walk out from the coalition. It has a strong foothold in two South Indian states (another is Kerala), thus it shouldn’t waste just because it wanted to stop BSY being as CM. In fact, Congress should realize that a short period of BSY government is always beneficial to Congress in the near future.
Will the Congress listen to right logic or it will remain ignorant thus eroding its footprints in another state which is Karnataka? Because of coalition frictions, many JDS and Congress workers may start shifting their loyalty towards BJP. Can the Congress afford to lose another state?