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Rediff.com  » News » 'Congress-JD-S will manage at least for two years'

'Congress-JD-S will manage at least for two years'

May 24, 2018 08:50 IST

'The question of survival depends on several factors because this country is divided vertically and horizontally.'
'There will always be demands and ups and downs.'

Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Governor Vajubhai Vala, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara after the swearing-in ceremony, May 24, 2018. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

IMAGE: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Governor Vajubhai Vala, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara after the swearing-in ceremony, May 24, 2018. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

Now that H D Kumaraswamy has been sworn in as Karnataka's chief minister, many wonder how long this wedding between the two parties will last.

"You can't call it an opportunistic alliance; it is an opportunity provided by the democratic process," Dr Harish Ramaswamy -- professor, department of political science at Karnatak University, Dharwad -- tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

 

How do you look at the Karnataka election results?
Wasn't the verdict for the Bharatiya Janata Party and against the ruling Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular?

I don't view the results as for and against.

I would rather view this as an endorsement of Modi's popularity on one side and a clear indication of the upper caste domination which wanted to bring down Siddaramaiah's pro-OBC policies.

It is also a vote against the policies which were meant to bring in the non-dominant caste, the OBCs, the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, into mainstream politics.

That is why the breakage of total votes into three parts without giving anybody a clear majority.

The result clearly shows endorsement of Narendra Modi, rejection of Siddaramaiah's policies by the upper castes, and the JD-S remaining where it was earlier.

Does that mean Karnataka's society has been divided into upper castes dominated by the Lingayats on one side, and the OBCs, SCs and STs on the other side?

I wouldn't call it as a division of society. I will call it societal mobilisation.

You need someone to bring other communities to occupy the political space, like (the late Karnataka chief minister) Devraj Urs brought in land reforms which empowered a large section of the landless population belonging to the OBCs, SCs and STs.

Siddarmaiah through his policies tried to contain the migration of these communities to other places for work.

While you encourage them to do so, you also encourage them to occupy the political space. They need to be represented.

If Siddarmaiah's policies were to help the OBCs, SCs and STs, why was it rejected?
He himself lost one of the seats he contested and scraped through in the other.
The number of Congress seats also came down to 78 from 122.

Siddaramaiah was one leader who tried to empower the OBCs, SCs and STs. and it was not well taken by a large section of the upper castes.

You mean the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas?

Yes, primarily. For example, in Mysore, there was a predominant collection of Vokkaligas who did not want Siddaramaiah to be re-elected.

There was a very clear mandate against him by the Vokkaligas where the BJP also joined the community.

If you take the other seat (Siddaramaiah contested) Badami, there is an equal number of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as that of the Kurubas to which he belongs.

You will see that the scheduled tribes moved towards the BJP for the simple reason that the BJP had offered Sriramulu (who hails from the community) the deputy chief minister's post.

And the Lingayats, of course, had reservations about Siddaramaiah's policies.

Do you feel Siddaramaiah's decision to give religious status to the Lingayats backfired?

I won't say it backfired, but it did not convert into votes which was expected, and that was why he did not take it up as an election agenda later on.

The BJP presented it as a policy to divide the community and it became an emotional issue.

This made many Lingayats and Veershaivas move to the BJP because at the ground level, ordinary voters did not know how to look at this issue.

So, there was a consolidation of Lingayat votes for the BJP and made the Lingayats vote against Siddaramaiah.

So, the Lingayat votes were against Siddaramaiah rather than a vote for the BJP?

If you look at each constituency, you will see either pro-incumbency or anti-incumbency.

Candidates lost not because the party did not perform, but they did not perform, they did not do developmental work and they did not spend time with the local people.

I would say, constituency-based issues determined the entire election.

Were people generally happy with the way Siddaramaiah ruled the state?

Yes, they were happy for three reasons.

The five years ran without any problem and people like stability in any government. Except during the election period, law and order was under control.

He also maintained the economic balance and tried to please everybody.

What backfired was he concentrated more on the OBCs, SCs and STs. That's why I said the election results were hijacked by the upper castes.

The JD-S is perceived as a Vokkaliga party and the BJP is perceived as a Hindu party while there was confusion about the image of the Congress, whether it was a secular, Hindu or Vokkaliga party.

Do you think Modi played a major role in the BJP getting 104 seats?

Undoubtedly.

If Narendra D Modi had not come down and toured those 21 constituencies, I don't think people would have voted for the BJP.

Before Modi came, it was almost certain that the Congress would come back to power.

After Modi came, there was a sea change because he is a better communicator than anybody else.

Even though he spoke in Hindi?

People living in Mumbai Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka understand Hindi and even in Dakshina Karnataka, people voted for him.

The Congress and JD-S fought each other in many constituencies. Is it not opportunistic for them to form an alliance after the election, especially when it was not a vote for them to rule the state?

In Indian and African elections, what matters more is community, caste, tribes, etc.

So, when parties speak against each other, we should not misunderstand it as permanent animosity.

Parties adopt methods to woo voters and this has been the case from the beginning.

So, parties accuse each other in the elections and work together later on. There is nothing surprising about that.

If you look at the Karnataka elections, nobody had a clear mandate to rule.

So, the Congress and the JD-S came together to prevent the BJP from coming to power.

The reason behind this is to stop the BJP from gaining inroads into the south. A post-poll alliance is nothing new in India and legally also, it is accepted.

Is it morally right?

You can't call it an opportunistic alliance; it is an opportunity provided by the democratic process.

The Congress has 38% votes and the JD-S 18% and together, it is more than the 36.5% votes the BJP got.

You mean it is a natural coalition of two parties?

They are natural because they follow the same ideology.

They are natural because their MLAs have similar identity.

They are natural because they follow the same agenda of keeping the BJP out.

Do you think this coalition will survive five years?

The question of survival depends on several factors because this country is divided vertically and horizontally.

There will always be demands and ups and downs.

I think they will manage at least for two years.

Where does this leave the BJP?

Though it is going to be tough, once again we will see the BJP coming to rule at the Centre in 2019.

Narendra Modi will continue to be there. I don't think there will be any change as far as the Centre is concerned.

If at all there is a change, that will only be when a third front or federal front comes together to oppose Modi and then, he may not get the simple majority that he has now.

Undoubtedly, Modi will be there in 2019, as of now.

Do you think the people of Karnataka will vote for Modi in 2019?

If the JD-S provides a good government which Kumaraswamy is known for, the BJP may get 15 or 16 seats only.

Modi is trying to clean up politics in his own way and there are people who still think Modi can deliver.

Politics is more about perception and a little bit about action.

The BJP may not have delivered what it has promised, but he can the change the perception of people through emotional issues like Hindutva, caste, etc.

In the last four years, he has been able to do only 20% of what he has promised.

So, it is 20% action and 80% perception through his speeches.

Perception makes people believe that he is working towards what they want.

For example, a project like clean India (Swachch Bharat).

Perception-wise, he has made people believe it is a very good issue. But have we achieved clean India? No.

Similarly, investment in India is also not happening because of fringe elements.

Unlike China, in India, you can't take a decision and it will happen.

Could Modi sway people towards him despite all this?

Yes, he is good at it. Modi is a master in it.

He knows how to sway people using their own weaknesses. Otherwise, he would not have won Varanasi.

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com