On Sunday, as most politicians relaxed after weeks of hectic campaigning, the shrewd power brokers of the three parties - Congress, BJP and JD(S) - were busy with negotiations.
But JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, the man who could play the most crucial role was conspicuously absent. While many expect him to be holding back-door talks with the two national parties in Bengaluru, the JD(S) leader was in Singapore, apparently for medical treatment.
Party insiders say that Kumaraswamy was facing breathing difficulty. He had undergone a heart-valve-replacement surgery at a Bengaluru hospital in September 2017 and an open-heart surgery in December 2007. He has visited Singapore for treatment in the past too.
Though the JD(S) maintained that his visit was purely to avail treatment, top Congress sources alleged that two BJP negotiators had met with Kumaraswamy in Singapore. Kumaraswamy is set to reach Bengaluru on Monday night, and as the results trickle in, he will weigh in on the conditions presented by both parties.
The BJP’s offer
Multiple sources have confirmed to TNM that the BJP has offered Kumaraswamy the Deputy Chief Minister’s seat. In addition to plum posts in Karnataka cabinet, JD(S) has also been promised union cabinet berths, and the party’s interest will be incorporated post-2019. “Kumaraswamy is insistent on CM post. But we cannot agree on that now and these demands can be relooked at only if the JD(S) wins more seats than anticipated,” a BJP leader told TNM.
Many BJP leaders are wary of entering into any formula that involves sharing the Chief Minister’s post with HD Kumaraswamy, considering the way the party burnt its fingers the last time around.
The Congress’ offer
Meanwhile, the Congress too has offered HD Kumaraswamy the Deputy Chief Minister’s post. A JD(S) leader said that Kumaraswamy may be open to looking at this possibility only if Siddaramaiah is not the Congress’ CM candidate. “We may even insist on a CM from a caste group that is not powerful in the state,” the JD(S) leader said.
When TNM asked a senior Congress leader about it, he said that they were in touch with people close to Kumaraswamy. When asked what more can the Congress offer compared to BJP, he said, “The JD(S) should know that going with Congress is better for them as the BJP is hell bent at destroying regional parties. They have to face 2019, and they know going with BJP will not help them.”
The Congress is also banking on HD Deve Gowda, who fancies himself as the leader of the third front and therefore cannot allow his party to ally with the BJP.
However, the Old Mysore region comprising of Rural Bengaluru, Hassan, Mandya and Mysore is a stronghold of the farmer-centric party will see a head-to-head fight between the ruling Congress and the JD(S). So, any gain for the Congress in the region is a loss of ground for the JD(S).
In 2013, the JD(S) had finished a joint second with 40 seats, which many political analysts believe will be a tough act to repeat as already seven of its sitting MLAs have switched loyalties to the Congress.
The BJP’s attitude towards the JD(S) too has been sober. Even PM Modi, in a visible attempt to cosy up with the JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda, called him the “son of the soil”. But failing to elicit an equally warm response, in the next rally itself he asked voters not to “waste their votes on the JD(S)”.