Is The Exit Poll Projection For Karnataka A Red Flag Against 'Khichdi Sarkars'?

Karnataka Lok Sabha Elections

The Karnataka state Assembly has been on rocky ground since its formation in 2018 as the Congress-JD(S) coalition holds a wispy majority of 13 seats over the largest party in the Assembly polls- the BJP which won 104 seats.

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:

The Karnataka state Assembly has been on rocky ground since its formation in 2018 as the Congress-JD(S) coalition holds a wispy majority of 13 seats over the largest party in the Assembly polls- the BJP which won 104 seats.

Pushing the tottering coalition to the edge, Republic's double exit poll by Jan Ki Baat and CVoter has projected that the NDA will deliver a strong performance in the state by winning 18 of Karnataka's 28 Lok Sabha seats, while the Congress-JD(S) combine is projected to win 9 seats and independent candidates are projected to win 1 seat.

In terms of history, in the last Lok Sabha elections when there was a triangular contest, the BJP secured 17 seats, Congress won 9 and JD(S) garnered 2. However, in 2019, having been in an uneasy alliance at the state for almost a year, Congress-JD(S) contested on a 21-7 seat share formula respectively in the hope of giving the BJP a tough battle, which has failed as per exit polls, raising the bigger question - Is the Karnataka exit poll a red flag for any other potential 'Khichdi Sarkars' comprising various anti-BJP regional bigwigs like TDP, SP, BSP, Trinamool, NCP, JD, etc.?

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How did the coalition deteriorate?

In 2018, the JD(S), headed by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, kept their differences aside to band together to form a government despite the BJP emerging the single-largest party in the state's assembly polls. The coalition which won 117 seats combined is currently in power on account of a slim advantage over the BJP's 104 seats  - a margin that has dropped on multiple occasions amid claims of BJP indulging in horse-trading. 

Since Kumaraswamy's swearing-in which witnessed a mega show of unity in Bengaluru, there have been continual indications that all is not well between the allies, as is evidenced by the repeated spectacle of Kumaraswamy breaking into tears, once even complaining about swallowing the poison of coalition politics. The two parties have also had to sequester their respective MLAs in resorts on multiple occasions in an attempt to thwart a repeat of BJP's Operation Lotus, once when senior Congress leaders met with BJP heads in Mumbai. 

Recently reports emerged that unhappy with the current Karnataka assembly, a few Congress MLAs had hinted that Siddaramaiah should take over the Chief Minister post again. Post this an array of JD(S) and Congress leaders started mudslinging at each other questioning H D Kumaraswamy's capability to lead as compared to Siddaramaiah.

To add to the confusion, Kumaraswamy and his predecessor Siddaramaiah themselves engaged in a war of opinions dragging in former PM Deve Gowda and Mallikarjuna Kharge, with Kumaraswamy holding the senior Congress leader as being underappreciated while Siddaramaiah contrasted Kumaraswamy unfavourably against his father and elder brother in return.

Since then, to reunite the two camps, the Congress 'high command' has met with the JD(S) chief to prepare for post-poll coalitions, while Kumaraswamy himself has requested both parties' members to not deepen the cracks.

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The Karnataka coalition on a national scale:

While JD(S) is firmly in coalition with the Congress in the state Assembly and the Lok Sabha, Kumaraswamy has been approached by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhara Rao (KCR) to join the 'Federal Front' to form a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance comprising of regional parties. as per sources. This is in contrast to its allegiance with the prospective 'mahagathbandhan' which is presumed to be led by the Congress.  

Historically, the JD(S)-led third front has witnessed marginal success achieving its zenith in 1996 through the formation of the United Front government with the JD(S) president H D Deve Gowda chosen as Prime Minister. This front which comprised of 13 parties namely Janata Dal, SP, DMK, TDP, AGP, four Left Front parties, AIIC(T), NC and MGP was supported from outside by the Congress. After barely two years of governance by Deve Gowda initially and Janata Dal president I K Gujral subsequently, the government ultimately fell and lost to the BJP when fresh elections were called.

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Post exit poll situation of coalitions:

While 'Opposition unifier' Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is hard at work meeting major party chiefs like Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Mayawati (BSP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Sharad Yadav (JD), Rahul Gandhi (Congress), Arvind Kejriwal (AAP), exit polls have projected setbacks for most of these parties in their own backyards. 

Sonia Gandhi had initially called for a meeting of Opposition and non-NDA parties on result day in what sources said was an attempt to pick a PM candidate, but following the exit poll projections, that meeting has now been postponed. While KCR, Jagan Mohan Reddy and Naveen Patnaik's parties were said to be invited to this meeting, some, such as the BJD are already making noises suggesting that they would be open to an alliance with the NDA at the Centre.

While coalition governments have functioned in the past, the Karnataka experiment indicates that what would await is continual griping for one reason or the other - something that PM Modi has spoken about numerous times in the last few months amid his 'Mazboot sarkar vs Majboor sarkar' claim.

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