Karnataka's Chief Minister-in-waiting. That is how H.D. Kumaraswamy, the working president of the Janata Dal (Secular), currently looks at himself. The 46-year-old third son of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda engineered what is considered the State's most telling political coup d'etat on January 18. Breaking ranks with his father, the film producer/distributor-turned-politician weaned away 39 JD(S) legislators, met Governor T.N. Chaturvedi and declared that the party had withdrawn support to the 19-month-old N. Dharam Singh-headed coalition government. Kumaraswamy maintained that the (working) atmosphere in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government had not been good right from the beginning, and that it was "a horrible experience". Excerpts from two interviews he gave Ravi Sharma, one on January 17 and the other on January 20.
Informed sources have told Frontline that plans were afoot for over two months to withdraw support to the Dharam Singh government and that you were even in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for much of this time. How did you manage to keep it a secret?That is my style of functioning.
What is your opinion of the Congress-JD(S) coalition?
During the past 19 months there has been no co-ordination between the two sides. In May 2004, prior to the formation of the coalition, the Congress had placed the Maharashtra model before us and said that it would be followed. But the Congress failed to keep its word, especially on the distribution of portfolios. Even a Cabinet expansion was not undertaken for eight months and it was only done after our legislators threatened to stage a dharna. The Congress did not take us into confidence. The Chief Minister interfered in the decisions taken by JD(S) Ministers and the transfer of officials in our constituencies. Some Congress leaders, especially those belonging to the S.M. Krishna camp, wanted to split and destabilise our party. They succeeded in doing so when Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramaiah left. They then started persuading him to join the Congress. Some Congress leaders even attacked and humiliated our national president (Deve Gowda), but the Congress high command did nothing to rein in these people. By not taking action against its leaders for anti-government activities, the Congress high command had only encouraged them.What about coordination in the Cabinet?
Even within the Cabinet there was no understanding between JD(S) and Congress Ministers. There was no rapport. A coordination committee was not even formed. The appointment of chairpersons to the various boards was pending.
Siddaramaiah has said that the entire political drama has been directed, scripted, produced and distributed by Deve Gowda.
I can swear in the name of God that my father has no role in this. The very people who are saying this used my father to achieve their political aspirations. There is no drama in these developments. The reason that forced me to take a decision against the wishes of my father and my family is the pressure from party legislators.
Senior JD(S) leader and Finance Minister P.G.R. Sindhia told this correspondent that you had never mentioned at any of the party platforms that working with the Congress was a "horrible experience".
I and other legislators raised this point a number of times. At every meeting legislators requested my father [to pull out]. They explained to senior JD(S) leaders how the Congress was humiliating the party and its leaders.
The latest crisis between the two parties was sparked off by the decision of the Congress to allow its local units to choose their own zilla panchayat coalition partners, including Siddaramaiah. But does not the arrangement with the Congress pertain only to the Assembly level?
Yes. Legally, it may be their right to choose their zilla panchayat coalition partners, since our alliance was only for government formation. But coalition dharma dictates that the Congress should have come to an understanding with the JD(S).
What is the reason for the JD(S)'s poor performance in the December panchayat polls. It won just two of the 27 zilla panchayats.
We increased our vote share by 10 per cent. Local factors influenced the voters. But the results are not an indication of how people will vote in an Assembly election. And we are not afraid of seeking a fresh mandate.
You have decided to go with the BJP. But how can a party that calls itself "secular" go along with the anti-secular BJP?
The BJP is not untouchable. In fact, after the 2004 Assembly elections a majority of the MLAs wanted to go with the BJP. But only because of Deve Gowda we went with the Congress.Are you saying this was a mistake?
Yes, a 100 per cent mistake. The Congress has no gratitude or decency and it failed to keep its word.
But is your ideology not different from that of the BJP?
In this country ideology is not so important. If you see, in the last 20-30 years all political parties have functioned the same way and have taken decisions for their own convenience. But we are not going to compromise with the BJP's ideology. Government formation with them is only for the sake of administering the State.
But this is not the way secular parties view your decision.
The Communist parties and some others are putting pressure on my father to see that I go back on my decision. These very parties did not `save' my father when he was Prime Minister. We will not reverse our decision to support the BJP.