The fiercely-contested Karnataka assembly election, as most exit polls had predicted, delivered a fractured verdict, paving way for a potential alliance between the Congress and JD(Secular), which was widely touted to emerge as the kingmaker.
Speculation was rife that the Congress would cobble up an alliance with JD(S) in the event of a hung verdict. Notably, both parties had refrained from adopting a combative approach against each other in the run-up to the assembly polls, despite sharing a chequered past.
Karnataka last witnessed a hung Assembly after the 2004 state election, when BJP emerged as the largest party in the southern state with 79 seats. It had failed to cross the majority mark of 113 in the 224-seat assembly. This was the time Siddaramaiah was associated with the Deve Gowda-led JD(S).
A backward caste Kuruba leader, Siddaramaiah rose through the ranks and went on to become the deputy chief minister under the coalition government led by CM Dharam Singh. Soon, differences cropped up between him and Gowda, leading to the expulsion of Siddaramaiah from the party.
Siddaramaiah later joined forces with the Congress and recorded a resounding victory in the 2006 bypolls in Chamundeshwari–a constituency which he lost this time–despite aggressive campaigning by former prime minister Deve Gowda. Thereafter, Siddaramaiah cemented his status as one of the tallest political personalities in Karnataka. Elevated as the leader of Congress legislative party in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah spearheaded the grand old party to absolute majority in the 2013 assembly elections.
Congress-JD(S) 2004 alliance: A history of turbulent ties
In 2004, the largest party was BJP with just 79 seats. The Congress and JD(S) came second and third with 65 and 58 seats, respectively. Although Gowda had maintained that he would not support either the BJP or the Congress ahead of the polls, the JD(S) chief changed his mind within 15 days and struck an alliance with the Congress.
Bound by their common enmity to the BJP, both parties decided to bury the hatchet to keep the saffron party out of the state. The period also witnessed BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu negoitiating with JD(S), however, but to no avail.
Siddaramaiah, who nursed ambitions of becoming a chief minister, had to settle for the post of the deputy CM after the Congress wanted to nominate one of its party members as the CM. Interestingly, it was Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy who convinced the former to accept the position. On May 28, 2004, N Dharam Singh was sworn in as the Karnataka chief minister.
Differences within the alliance started cropping up over the span of next 20 months, though both Singh and Gowda maintained the coalition was intact and tenable. Adding more pressure, the state government was also struggling to keep up its promises, resulting in a palpable disenchantment among the public. Sensing an opportunity to strike a deal with JD(S), the BJP reached out to Gowda twice, but to no avail.
While JD(S) supremo Gowda expressed his disapproval of the BJP, his son Kumaraswamy felt the Congress did not care about the JD(S) and did nothing to fulfil their demands. As soon as Kumaraswamy was made the JD(S) state president, he severed ties with the Congress and formed his own government with the support of the BJP. However, his government too fell after one year.
The new coalition had Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister and B. S. Yeddyurappa of the BJP as deputy chief minister. The two parties had entered into an informal power sharing pact before forming the government, agreeing that they would enjoy chief ministership for a period of 20 months each (which would cover the time left for the next elections).
The disintegration of the JD(S)-BJP coalition eventually led to the polls, which saw the BJP forming its first government in the south in 2008.