Karnataka crisis: Will it be exit HD Kumaraswamy? Both camps look for alternative

BENGALURU: “Can the coalition be saved if there is a change in the leadership of the government?” was the question at four different meetings held on Sunday.

The possible stepping down of H D Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister and how it could impact the coalition was first discussed at a meeting of Congress leaders led by KC Venugopal, then between D K Shivakumar and JDS supremo H D Deve Gowda, later at the JDS Legislature Party meeting and finally in a late night meeting held between Congress and JDS leaders at a private hotel.

With little left for the coalition to salvage, an alternative for the Chief Minister’s post is being considered as a last-ditch attempt.

Close to five of the 13 rebel MLAs, including S T Somashekhar, Byrathi Basavraj and Munirathna, are said to have conveyed to their party that they would withdraw their resignations if Siddaramaiah is made the Chief Minister.

“Chief Minister’s post is not vacant. Kumaraswamy is the CM,” Siddaramaiah said on Sunday when asked if he was in the race.

“If the coordination committee decides that Siddaramaiah should be the CM, we will not oppose it,” said G T Devegowda, JDS MLA and Minister for Higher Education dropping a bombshell on Sunday.

Sources privy to the meeting between Shivakumar and Deve Gowda said that the JDS supremo outright rejected the possibility of Kumaraswamy making way for Siddaramaiah.

“Why not Mallikarjun Kharge? A Dalit face and a veteran who has been a loyalist of the Congress party,” Gowda is said to have asked Shivakumar.

The water resources minister and Vokkaliga strongman himself is a frontrunner for the post and he has identified himself as trustworthy in both camps — Congress as well as the JDS.

Sources also said that Gowda dialled Mallikarjun Kharge immediately to suggest that he take over as the chief minister but the veteran politician declined.

“Kharge understands that there is no end to this dissidence. Even if ministers are dropped from the cabinet and rebels are accommodated, how many can he accommodate and what is the guarantee that similar dissent won’t break out? pointed out a source close to Kharge.

While the coalition does not intend to give up and hand over a victory to the BJP, the fall in numbers reducing it to a minority government is becoming imminent with leaders scouting for ways to extend the coalition’s life.

While Kumaraswamy’s resignation does not guarantee the continuation of the coalition, for the two parties, it is an option worth pursuing only if the JDS is willing to sacrifice the primary clause on which the coalition was built — a  five-year term for Kumaraswamy as CM.