It was 12 years ago that 46-year-old Mr H.D. Kumaraswamy divided his Legislature Party and joined hands with the BJP to form the coalition government. The number of legislators he had with him was 35 and now, he is CM designate again with 38 members in his kitty. This time, he has decided to toe the line of his father and former Prime Minister Mr H.D. Deve Gowda and join hands with the Congress, which will ensure him a slender majority in a House of 224. Mr Kumaraswamy feels that the movement to unite all regional parties and form a National Front might start from Karnataka. The Congress could become an ‘inevitable partner’, as they would be taking on powerful communal forces, he said. Despite health issues, Mr Kumaraswamy did not mind putting himself through the grind in the recent polls. However, he feels that his efforts were not rewarded in numbers during the elections. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, he said that it was not about becoming Chief Minister for a second time but about the many unfinished tasks which he had initiated earlier and remained to be completed. Excerpts from the interview:
How do you feel about becoming Chief Minister a second time?
I do not feel elated. I have already experienced the working pattern and the difficulties of running a coalition government which in the present political scenario is very difficult. More than becoming Chief Minister, I am worried about finding solutions to various problems. I have my own programmes, which can be implemented if I could form the government independently. But, I will have my limitations in a coalition government.
Both times (2006 and 2018), you got a bare minimum number of legislators to form the government. What do you feel about it?
I am surprised. I am not sure if people are testing me by giving me power with bare minimum support or God is testing me. My family is very religious and believes in destiny. For a second time, I have only 38 legislators with apprehensions being expressed about the longevity of the government. Earlier also, for 20 months, I had given a stable government. There were allegations levelled against me by my coalition partner but I did not react. I just worked and gave good governance to the people. Now too, I don’t feel that a coalition government would be a major hindrance in giving good administration. I am however apprehensive about the coalition partner matching my speed in implementing programmes.
You are compelled to join hands with your sworn enemies like the Congress. You really don't have a choice?
That is true. In Karnataka, we fought against both parties. However, keeping in mind political developments in the entire country, there is a need to join hands with the Congress which needs such an arrangement more than us. So even if minor hiccups arise, there will be ample scope to make amends.
Is there any formula for sharing cabinet berths or a power sharing period?
The issue has not gone that far. They are trivial matters, which would be discussed during the last stages of government formation. Our main concern now is to make this coalition work smoothly. Earlier, we had fought bitterly, but now, we need the government to function smoothly. Our first priority is to sail through the vote of confidence. By that time, the Congress will come out with their proposal on cabinet composition. We too will have something in mind, based on the advice of Mr H.D. Deve Gowda. We can sit across the table and settle it amicably. The biggest challenge for us is to bring out a Common Minimum Programme. Both the parties have made promises to the people and we have to stand by our commitment. We are concentrating more on how much we can implement in five years.
You have a couple of by-elections in the offing. Are you going to join hands with the Congress in fighting these?
Of course. We have to go together now. Just after forming the government, we will have to face by-elections in Jayanagar and Rajarajeshwarinagar. Ramanagar will come later, but it will not be a problem. These two seats are crucial to us, we cannot allow BJP to win either of the two seats. The leaders of both parties have to sit together and work out strategies to ensure the coalition partners win these seats.
There was a movement of regional parties to form a National Front to counter the two national parties-Congress and BJP. It was mooted by people like Telangana Chief Minister KCR and even Mr Deve Gowda. Now that you have joined hands with the Congress, how do you propose to take the movement forward?
There is a discussion to bring all regional parties on a single platform and there are suggestions that both national parties should be kept out. I feel that a situation may arise where even the Congress needs to be included in this front. The final shape will be decided by the heads of regional parties and Mr Deve Gowda. I have a gut feeling that the government formation in Karnataka would be the foundation for a new polarisation at the national level.
Your health is matter of concern, doctors keep advising you to take rest. Will you get time?
Yes... doctors are concerned about my life and they advise me to take rest. They warn me not to take any risk and that is true. However, I have a dream of delivering some programmes to solve the problems being faced by common people. Compared to earlier years, I have changed my lifestyle also. I think, I may take lesser work load and still achieve my dream of delivering some programmes for the people.
How does your family react to your hectic work style despite your health issues?
Everyone is concerned and advise me to reduce my work load. I am working out a schedule, where I can deliver good administration and maintain good health. I am mentally prepared for that.