To be led by a party with less than half its strength is, indeed, a tough call for any party, particularly the Congress, which has a collective ego double its size. And this is what makes ministry-making such a formidable challenge for the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka. The pre-poll acrimony between the two parties is not easily forgotten and, as such, tough bargaining for posts and portfolios is a given as the two have been brought together by a common cause against the BJP, rather than the commonality of views and values.
The Congress is demanding two deputy CM posts as the minimum that is required to balance tricky caste equations and interest groups that are pulling in opposite directions. The party finds itself in a situation when two halves will not make a wholesome one. The awareness that the BJP is keeping jackal-like vigil to pounce on even the slightest discontent among the MLAs is holding back the alliance partners somewhat, but that may not be enough to let go of life-time opportunities.
The broad parameters of power-sharing have, apparently, been worked out, under which the Congress will get the deputy chief minister’s and the Speaker’s posts, along with some key portfolios, including revenue and public works, both cash cows in the context of Karnataka. It is guaranteed that there could be much jostling for other key portfolios, such as home, power, and finance.
The two partners have realised that hatred for the BJP may be a good reason to come together, but not enough to have a government going forward. So, the alliance partners are said to be inclined to work out an agreed minimum common programme to provide an ideological structure for the arrangement, which the BJP hopes will not last long.
The sticky points include the irreconcilable division between the Vokkaligas, who dominate the JD(S), and the Lingayat-dominated Congress block. Also marring the bonhomie is the known animosity between personalities within the alliance partners. Senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar, who played a crucial role in keeping the flock together to ward off poaching by the BJP, said openly the other day that he had to swallow a lot of bitterness with the JD(S) for the sake of forming an anti-BJP government. A staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family, he said he did it in deference to Rahul Gandhi’s wishes. Shivakumar, who is a key aspirant for the deputy CM’s post, which he is not getting, refused to comment on the alliance’s chances of completing the full term.
Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in will surely be an occasion for the leaders in attendance to toast Opposition unity ahead of the 2019 elections. But there is always the proverbial slip betwixt the cup and lip.