Shortly after assuming office as Chief Minister of Karnataka, H D Kumaraswamy had spoken darkly of the travails of running a coalition government with the Congress. And now, he has broken down at a public event in Bengaluru organised by his party, the Janata Dal (S), to felicitate him. With handkerchief applied to teary eye, he said that while his partymen were happy for him, he was not happy having to swallow poison like Shiva.
While a senior Congress leader in the state has agreed that some of his colleagues were “tormenting” Kumaraswamy, the fundamental challenge of running a coalition government, as seasoned politicians like AB Vajpayee have known all too well, is to manage the alliance. Kumaraswamy could not have taken office without the support of the Congress, since the JD(S) won only 37 seats out of the 222 in the assembly. When he made his bid for the chief minister’s chair as the lesser partner, he should have known that asserting his control over the alliance would be difficult. The lachrymal glands are of no help in such matters. And as Pushpa was told in no uncertain terms in Amar Prem, people generally hate tears.
Kumaraswamy says that he took office to further the developmental agenda of his father, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. But if he finds that he is unequal to smoothing out the wrinkles in the coalition, and that this stands in the way, he could consider stepping down in favour of a colleague. A less drastic step would be to commission a colleague to manage the coalition. It would leave him free to further that agenda — delivering benefit to distressed farmers, daily wage workers and the downtrodden. The party’s happiness index would rise and there would be no time for tears, idle tears.