Two days after sailing through a floor test in the state assembly, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy Monday said that his party did not have the mandate of all the people of the state and that his government was at the “mercy of the Congress”.
Under pressure over farm loans in Karnataka and on the day that the Opposition BJP called for a state-wide bandh, Kumaraswamy suggested that he could not waive farmer loans because of opposition from his alliance partner. The JD (S) and Congress are also still locked in a tussle over the allocation of portfolios in the state.
After his remarks drew sharp criticism from the BJP, Kumaraswamy clarified: “What I said is that I must consult the Congress on all matters since we are in a coalition. The BJP is going around saying things that I am not willing to waive off the loans at all. I have said I will waive the loans. I cannot do it overnight. You need to give me some breathing room.”
After his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi Monday, he said he would unveil plans drawn up by his new coalition government for farm loan waivers in Karnataka. “I have said I will resign if cannot waive off the loans. Why don’t you wait for a couple of days? On Wednesday I will announce my move to waive off the loans and how I will go about it,’’ he said.
Asked about his meeting with Modi, Kumaraswamy said: “We had an informal meeting but we discussed many development issues pertaining to Karnataka. I have sought the cooperation of the Prime Minister and the Centre on many issues. I sought immediate directions for the release of coal for a thermal plant in Karnataka. He also advised me on the basis of his experience.”
The waiver of farm loans has been at the centre of political discourse in the state since Kumaraswamy was sworn in as CM on May 23 on account of the divergent positions taken by the JD (S) and Congress on the issue in the run-up to polls.
Through last week, Kumaraswamy has hinted that he is being held back from announcing a complete loan waiver by the Congress, which was opposed to a total waiver in the past in the interest of fiscal responsibility.
A senior Congress functionary admitted that the Congress has no alternative other than to accept the waiver of loans proposed by the JDS since the BJP had stolen a march by announcing it first.
“We have not been politically smart about this matter. The JD (S) and BJP have won all the political points while we have emerged looking like accountants. The Congress should have dealt with the issue better,’” the Congress leader said. Senior Karnataka Congress leader D K Shivakumar said: “It is a collective responsibility. Whatever promises we have made we will work together.”
After his meeting with Modi, Kumaraswamy met Congress leaders over the allocation of portfolios. At the heart of this tussle, according to both parties, is the finance portfolio. Sources in the JD (S) said the Congress has also asked for other important portfolios including home, industries, transport irrigation, power and excise.
“The meeting was inconclusive. Very soon, we are going to find out an amicable solution regarding the portfolio issues. The Chief Minister has left. I am staying back in Delhi,” senior JD(S) leader Danish Ali told The Indian Express when asked about the talks.
Congress leaders argued Finance portfolio has always been with the party whose nominee is not the chief minister. Sources said they pointed that finance was with deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah when Congress’s Dharam Singh was the CM in 2004. Siddaramaiah was then in the JD(S). Similarly, B S Yeddyurappa handled the portfolio when Kumaraswamy was CM heading the JD(S)-BJP coalition government from 2006.
Sources in the Congress said the party has already prepared the list of its ministers but will hand it over to the JD(S) only after the Finance portfolio is resolved. “There should be clarity on this first. Swearing in can happen only when this issue is resolved,” a senior Congress leader said. Through the day, there were formal and informal talks between Congress and JD(S) leaders to resolve the deadlock.