Debating India


Separate ways, at last

Thursday 28 December 2006

The suspensions and counter-suspensions in the Janata Dal(Secular) formalise the split in the party that arose from the decision of the dominant section of its Karnataka unit to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party. After the faction of the JD(S) opposed to the alliance with the BJP met in Thiruvananthapuram and replaced former Prime Minister Deve Gowda with Surendra Mohan as the national president of the party, supporters of Mr. Gowda held a national executive meeting in New Delhi and suspended Mr. Mohan. This should bring to an end the political uncertainty and ideological confusion within the JD(S) - which was unable to reconcile its secular orientation with the actions of the Karnataka unit led by Mr. Gowda’s son, H.D. Kumaraswamy. Initially, the former Prime Minister tried to save the situation by suspending from the party the 40 members of the Legislative Assembly who had formed a coalition government in partnership with the BJP. However, faced with the twin challenges of proving his secular credentials and ensuring the continuance of the Kumaraswamy-led Government, Mr. Gowda opted for the latter course.

As a left-of-centre party, the JD(S) could not have countenanced an alliance with the BJP. Indeed the only reason why Mr. Kumaraswamy and his supporters decided to break ranks was their disaffection with the Congress. The fractured mandate in the 2004 Assembly election meant - for those hungry for power - that the only alternative to a coalition with the Congress was a coalition with the BJP. Thus, without any agreement on policies and programmes, the Karnataka JD(S) struck a deal with the BJP. While such opportunistic switching of alliance partners is not uncommon in Indian politics, in this case the ideological label the party carries in its very name was mocked by the deal with the BJP. After all, what differentiated the JD(S) from the breakaway Janata Dal(United) was its anti-BJP stance. The JD(U) is already in alliance with the BJP, and in one stroke, the Kumaraswamy revolt blurred the ideological divide. While Mr. Gowda and his son gave their reasons for parting company with the Congress, those in the JD(S) who saw secularism as the organising principle of the party found the situation untenable. Not surprisingly, after almost a year of uneasy cohabitation, the two factions went their separate ways. The split raises serious questions about the future of the JD(S). The reality is that Karnataka is the only State where the party is a decisive player - and here the Deve Gowda organisation matters, not the rival group. Politically, of course, the unsavoury developments of the last year have weakened the stock of both factions.

See online : The Hindu

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