HD Kumaraswamy, Chief Minister of Karnataka, finds the post a crown of thorns and would rather have the Congress, his post-election ally, head the coalition government. Having undergone two heart surgeries, he finds the strain and stress of office too much to bear, but the Congress insists he bear the cross.
Kumaraswamy disclosed that he never wanted to head the coalition government, but was forced to assume the responsibility by the Congress. His father, HD Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister, also suggested to the Congress leadership to choose one of its MLAs as Chief Minister.
The suggestion was rejected. In the 34-member Council of Ministers, 22 berths have been allotted to the Congress and 12 to the Janata Dal (Secular). Every Congress MLA wants a berth to “serve the people” and that too with plum portfolios. A way being worked out is to offer them ministership by rotation, making a mockery of parliamentary democracy.
Those who do not think the government will last more than three months as speculated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Yeddyurappa, wanted to be included in the first batch of ministers while others wanted to be accommodated in lucrative government posts like chairmen of public sector corporations and boards.
There are 30 prominent corporations and boards in the State. The Congress has been asked to nominate chairpersons for 20 of them, not sufficient to satisfy all. With the BJP making overtures to dissident MLAs in the ruling coalition, Kumaraswamy is at his wits’ end to keep the flock together. The support of every MLA is crucial for the survival of the government.
One of the most compelling reasons for Kumaraswamy, other than his frail health, is his inability to keep the promise, written in the election manifesto of the JD(S), to write off agricultural loans from cooperative banks, regional rural banks and nationalised banks within 24 hours if voted to power. Of course the people of Karnataka did not vote his party to power. Post-election circumstances forced him to assume the chief ministership.
Farmers have been the backbone of the JD(S) and he dare not go back on the promise. In the last three years, more than 3,500 farmers in Karnataka have committed suicide. Crop loss and fall in prices of agricultural produce have driven farmers deeper in debt. Farmers want waiver of all outstanding loans totalling Rs 1.14 lakh crore. His government has offered to write off crop loans of Rs 53,000 crore. That too he could not fulfil even after three weeks of assuming power because his hands are tied. It is not surprising Kumaraswamy wants to throw away the crown of thorns.