Rightwing Ascendancy in Karnataka

Karnataka, the most sought after destination of IT-BT industries, has undergone a political shake-up. The dislodging of the Dharam Singh-led coalition of Congress-JD(S) alliance, the culmination of a series of political developments in the past few months, has clearly exposed the political opportunism of the JD(S) and the bankruptcy of the Congress model of ‘secular' alliance. It has once again proved that politicians from the bourgeois centrist camp can hardly be consistent secularists.

Apart from being a pro-communal turn, these developments also mark assertion of dominant castes over Karnataka politics. Karnataka politics has traditionally been a bastion of the Congress, which always tried to balance all caste forces. Devaraj Urs' impact on the backward class mobilization was tremendous. He kept upper caste domination at bay by relying on the OBC and dalit forces. The successive governments that followed him have expressed a dominant caste re-assertion. The Assembly election of 2004 gave a fractured result, wherein the JD(S), which had only 4 MLAs earlier, rose to 59 and the Congress was reduced to 64. The resounding victory of the BJP with 79 made it the single biggest party in the Assembly. People rejected the Congress' S. M. Krishna government on the basis of anti-incumbency and failure in various fronts. His hi-tech gimmicks did not cut much ice with the people. The fall of Krishna has many parallels with the Chandrababu Naidu story of Andhra Pradesh. The success of the BJP in the coastal districts, in urban areas and also in malnad areas is due to its sustained campaign on communal lines against Muslims. Its attempts to make Baba Budangiri a second Ayodhya partially led to its electoral success. Obviously, the newly elected members of the biggest party were hungry for power and looking for a key coalition partner. The political ally turned out to be Kumaraswamy, one of the sons of Deve Gowda.

The Dharam Singh-led Congress-JD(S) coalition was not even a functional coalition. In the early phase of 20 months of the Congress-led coalition period, the working JD(S) president Kumaraswamy threatened to withdraw support for not expanding the cabinet and Dharam Singh quickly obliged. The drowsy Dharam government was always controlled by Deve Gowda and his family. Meanwhile, a section of the Congress and the JD(S) were restless in the background of demolition of Kanaka Gopura at the Krishna temple in Udupi. Deputy Chief Minister Mr Siddaramaiah, with his OBC background, was the key rallying point for protest over the issue. It was at this time the OBC section under the leadership of Siddaramaiah tried to assert their rights by organizing conventions of AHINDA (minorities and OBC conglomeration), which was a "non-political" forum. In these conventions, Siddaramaiah was compared to Devaraj Urs and projected as the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. The assertion of the OBC leader was perceived as a political threat by Deve Gowda. In a clever political manipulation, he expelled Siddaramaiah not only from the Deputy Chief Minister post but also from the JD(S) on charges of anti-party activities. Now, Siddaramaiah has formed a new political party AIPJD (All India Progressive Janata Dal) along with few a MLAs of dalit and OBC groups. The AHINDA formation posed a threat to the Congress and the JD(S) in the zila parishad and panchayat elections. The fragile coalition of Congress-JD(S) became shaky when the Congress planned not to extend the coalition with the JD(S) to the state and local level and went ahead to share power with Siddaramaiah's AIPJD. Unnerved by these developments, Kumaraswamy not only accused the Congress of humiliating the JD(S) but decided to form a new alliance with the BJP on the slogan of giving a better government harping on "Development" as the key orientation.

Throughout these political manoeuvres, Deve Gowda kept on shedding bogus tears for the adventurism of Kumaraswamy. Deve Gowda was quick to expel Siddaramaiah because of association with AHINDA, an OBC formation, but, on the contrary, but was extremely slow to expel his son for his path-breaking opportunism in joining hands with the communal BJP. Even now, many observers suspect that Deve Gowda is far from being just a hapless onlooker to his son's actions.

The non-Congress electoral politics of Deve Gowda and Siddaramaiah proved fruitful in raising the strength of JD(S) from 4 to 59 in 2004 . Meanwhile, the BJP, which was traditionally a Brahmin-Baniya conglomerate, could draw to its fold Lingayats, and they have now aligned with Okkaligas, a dominant landowning community.

After bringing down the Dharam Singh-led government, Kumaraswamy publicly declared that he did not know the meaning of ‘secularism'. He claimed to have searched for its meaning in dictionaries and have consulted many intellectuals, who could not enlighten him on the subject! Principles and ideology do not bother this youngster. On the contrary, the Deputy CM Yediyurappa of BJP said that Hindutva was very much on their agenda.

On swearing in as the Deputy CM, Yediyurappa instructed to remove Ambedkar's photo from his chamber. The dalits and the left and democratic forces took to the streets protesting over the insult to Ambedkar. They are demanding Yediyurappa's resignation and are organizing the mass movements. At this stage, it is clear that the casteist and communal forces have won. Right reaction is going to unfold its fangs. The left and democratic forces should swiftly launch a counter-offensive.