Amid Widening Rift Between Congress and JD(S), Litmus Test for Karnataka Coalition Today
Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy. (PTI Photo)
Bengaluru: Thursday will be a litmus test for the tumultuous Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka, days after most exit polls predicted a near collapse of the ruling alliance.
In a sign of increasing trouble, seven-time MLA and a former minister R Roshan Baig launched a scathing attack on the party, calling state Congress president Dinesh Gundurao a “flop show” and former chief minister Siddaramaiah an arrogant leader.
Baig, a popular Muslim face of Congress, has said exit polls are close to reality. Speaking to News18, he said Muslims should look beyond Congress and in the current scenario, even the BJP was acceptable.
“Muslims are not Congress vote bank. The party should not take them for granted. Muslims can even support the BJP if the situation demands,” he said.
Baig's open revolt did not go down well with the party, which issued him a showcause notice and asked him to respond within a week.
Baig’s statement just days before the Lok Sabha results followed a war of words between the Congress and the JD(S), with both warning of a possible collapse. Speaking to News18, JD(S) spokesperson Tanvir Ahmed said: “If the numbers on result day don’t favour us, then there will be trouble for the coalition in Karnataka.”
Responding to the threat, Congress leader Brijesh Kalappa too said the results were bound to have an effect on the coalition.
Saddled with an agitated JD(S) and rebellion within the ranks, a beleaguered Congress is struggling to save the coalition government post Parliament election results.
The opposition BJP, which is expected to do exceedingly well in the polls, has already started attempts to topple the one-year-old HD Kumaraswamy-led government in the state and Baig’s open revolt has brought in much cheer for the party.
The BJP is also hoping to win two more assembly seats in the bypolls, votes for which will be counted along with Parliament seats on Thursday. Kundagol and Chincholi assembly seats voted on May 19 to elect new MLAs. Kundagol Congress MLA and minister CS Shivalli had passed away and Chincholi Congress MLA Dr. Umesh Jadhav defected to BJP to take on senior party leader M Mallikarjuna Kharge in Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat.
If it wins both, its current tally in the Assembly will touch 106. Two independent MLAs are also backing them. The half-way mark is 113 in the 224-member Assembly.
JD(S) insiders, meanwhile, claim that if the coalition tally goes below 10 and chief minister’s son Nikhil loses from Mandya, the coalition will surely collapse. They even hint at JD(S) going with the BJP to save its existence.
Despite Congress president Rahul Gandhi's orders to save the government at any cost, the state unit has realised that it is a tough job and the party is on a slippery slope.
A senior Congress MLA told News18 that it would be better if the assembly was dissolved. “Joining hands with the JD(S) has caused huge damage to us and strengthened the BJP in Old Mysore region where it was a minor player till last elections. If we go to elections again, we can at least save our vote share and party structure,” he said.
Speaking to the media, KPCC president Dinesh Gundurao said he was confident of a decent performance by the coalition in Lok Sabha polls and the government is safe. He even downplayed Roshan Baig’s remarks.