Karnataka crisis: A BJP scripted mayhem?

File photo of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumarswamy at an event of Deccan Herald. Picture credit: DH Photo

The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka is walking on a tight rope, perilously trying to keep balance and close to collapse. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is playing all his cards in a desperate attempt to keep the throne safe from the Opposition.

Since last Saturday, 16 MLAs from the two parties (13 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) have resigned. The clouds of danger now hover with greater force and energy. It's the threat of demolition of the coalition government that captured power by a whisker after the Karnataka Assembly elections in May 2018. At that time, the BJP was conquered despite singlehandedly gaining 104 seats. Is this the party's comeback moment of glory, the time to strike back at the reigning government?

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led NDA won an astonishing 303 seats. It was a landslide victory, which showed that the saffron party would not slow down. Instead, they would capture elusive territories and recapture ones that slipped from their grasp. The BJP wanted to control Karnataka as a key state in its foray into South Indian politics.

Operation Kamala: Ambush in 'game of thrones'

In the Assembly polls of May 2008, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 110 seats, three short of a simple majority. BS Yeddyurappa took the oath as chief minister with the support of six independents to form the first BJP government in South India. To strengthen its position, the BJP tried to lure seven opposition legislators - three from the Congress, four from the JD(S) - to its camp to ensure the stability of the Yeddyurappa government. It was a successful strategy, one that received fame (and ignominy) known as Operation Kamala (or Operation Lotus). In the by-polls, the BJP won five seats and took its tally to 115 in the 224-member Assembly.

"Operation Kamala was not wrong and I don't regret it. It is part of democracy."

On March 21, 2019, Yeddyurappa appeared as a chief guest in a forum for Deccan Herald's Political Theatre. When asked about Operation Kamala, he said, "It was necessitated by the fact that we won 110 seats and required four members' support. We had to do that to form government in Karnataka. It won't happen now." He justified 'horse-trading' as a part of democracy and said that he had no regrets about it.

Were the seeds sowed back then? Is Karnataka's current political air carrying a feel of déjà vu?

 

"I'm confident and I have been saying this since the beginning that we will win 22 seats. Hundred per cent, we will win 22 seats, after that, whatever ups and downs that will happen in politics, we have to wait and see - that is all...I don't want to say anything on that," Yeddyurappa told PTI, on May 4, 2019. It was 19 days before the Lok Sabha election results were announced.

The nation waited with bated breath for the results. On May 23, the results were declared and BJP supporters erupted in joy. The Opposition hastily tried to draw a new plan. It was a victory that Yeddyurappa had predicted. Did the BJP prowl like a hunter in the shadows, ready to pounce at the right moment?

A drama waiting to unfold?

Operation Kamala has resurfaced 11 years later, like a 2.0 version. This time, it's not about survival but about upstaging the ruling government and carpe diem. Another question lingers, however. Is this dance of turmoil orchestrated by a party of political masterminds or an inexorable outcome of a failed union? A PTI report on May 23, 2019, said that trouble was brewing between the Congress and the JD(S) coalition, which was bogged down by contradictions. The BJP clinched 25 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka and was assumed to be one of the causes of the tensions.

Oscillation of fate

Whatever the reason for the ongoing crisis, one thing is clear. Either the current mayhem will resolve with a Houdini-like escape for the coalition government or a new BJP government will take over, which will further strengthen the party's grip over the political scenario of the country.

Till then, the citizens will remain glued to the edge-of-the-seat happenings in Karnataka: It's the great Indian political theatre.

 

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