What Maharashtra Can Learn From Karnataka’s Failed Coalition Govt

Will the Maharashtra coalition face issues and a fate similar to Karnataka? 

3 min read
Will the Maharashtra coalition face issues and a fate similar to Karnataka? 

With Maharashtra’s new coalition government’s sworn in, its neighbour Karnataka’s example can be read as a caveat, as the state saw a failed coalition government just four months ago.

The similarities between both states are uncanny – they saw coalitions being forged to keep BJP from coming to power, as well as the saffron party attempting to stake claim to the government and horse-trading.

In Karnataka, in the months that followed, the BJP prevailed in its efforts and eventually, brought down the JD(S)-Congress coalition government.

Does that mean the Maharashtra coalition will face issues and a fate similar to Karnataka? 

Why Maharashtra & Karnataka Are Different

Three aspects make Karnataka and Maharashtra different:

First: Maharashtra BJP will have to poach a far higher number of MLAs in order to topple the government than in Karnataka. Yediyurappa needed only eight MLAs to defect to bring down the government. However, in Maharashtra, Fadnavis will have to convince 40 MLAs from the coalition camp to defect, if an Operation Lotus is to be pulled off.

Second: BJP will need a leader as eager to come to power as Yediyurappa. Since resigning after failing to prove majority on 19 May 2018, he made at least three attempts to topple the JD(S)-Congress government.

Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa. 
Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa. 
(Photo: PTI)
According to BJP sources, all three poaching attempts were orchestrated by him without the Central leadership’s support. Why? Since Yediyurappa had realised it was his last chance to become CM. According to BJP leaders, Fadnavis may not be similarly driven to topple the government as Yediyurappa was. 

Third: the vote banks of the three alliance partners – in Karnataka, one of the primary reasons differences emerged between Congress and JD(S) camps was because they shared the same vote bank.

In south Karnataka, Congress and JD(S) have been traditional rivals. Thus, when the two parties joined hands, the ground-level party workers and senior leaders opposed the decision.

This was cited as a reason by those supporting leaders like Siddaramaiah, who tried to break the alliance on several occasions, fearing the Congress would lose its vote bank.

However, in Maharashtra, the three parties have their own vote banks. Although it’s argued that Shiv Sena and NCP are dependent on the Maratha vote bank, NCP’s vote bank is the rural Maratha community while the Sena depends on urban Maratha votes.


An Important Lesson – CM’s Role

The alliance’s Common Minimum Programme was revealed ahead of Uddhav Thackeray’s swearing-in ceremony.
The alliance’s Common Minimum Programme was revealed ahead of Uddhav Thackeray’s swearing-in ceremony.
(Photo: Altered by The Quint)
While many factors highlight the differences between the two states, there’s a big factor that trumps them all and has the potential to bring down the coalition government.

It was the rebellion of the MLAs which resulted in the downfall of the alliance in Karnataka. However, even before the BJP approached them with the offer to change camps, the MLAs in question had expressed displeasure over HD Kumaraswamy’s functioning as chief minister.

The MLAs had complained that Kumaraswamy didn’t give them enough face-time and alleged he didn’t heed the problems of constituencies or allot funds. In some cases, promises were purportedly made but not kept by the CM.

The complaints weren’t taken seriously even when raised through the Coalition Coordination Committee.

Uddhav Thackeray might make the same mistakes. 

Uddhav has never been a part of electoral politics or run a government. As a leader accustomed to giving commands to his party workers, he might lack the diplomatic skill needed to run a coalition government.

If Uddhav adopts his iron-hand methods to run the coalition government, Maharashtra might see the same fate as Karnataka.

In this context, the role of senior leaders like Sharad Pawar becomes important. In Karnataka, Congress veteran Siddaramaiah is alleged to have attempted to break the alliance behind the scenes. But, if a maestro like Pawar plays the role of keeping the House together, the coalition may sustain for five years.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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