(M J Akbar)
How far does the sound of a heart being broken travel?
Since nothing is louder than heartbreak during a honeymoon, the sobs of such trauma should certainly be audible across the country. A honeymoon is surely too early for tragedy, unless of course the wedding was arranged on the basis of soaring and continual demands for dowry. Greed is always brittle.
The public sobs that emanated from Bangalore on Saturday, were wrenching. H. D. Kumaraswamy, chief minister of Karnataka, had come to a party function to be cheered. Instead he broke down in tears. “I’m swallowing my pain,” he said, “which is nothing more than poison…”
The poison was his alliance with Congress, which had given him the chair but had taken away his dignity. He was describing the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of a professed ally. Poison is associated with snakes, with this one biting from the camouflage of darkness. Among other things, he was being trolled with a message from Congress: ‘Kumaraswamy is not my CM’. The newish CM had got the message. The wedding may not have technically ended in divorce yet but the marriage was over, and during the honeymoon. “God will decide,” he said, “how many days I will stay as CM.”
When a coalition chief minister makes God his referee you know that the trouble has gone beyond human repair.
How did it all go awry so quickly?
Congress now wants unbridled power for its own cohorts. It is on a course guided by a combination of greed and entitlement.
The first reason why the Karnataka coalition went wrong was because it was never right. Congress did not make Kumaraswamy, head of the much smaller party in the alliance, CM because it wanted good governance. Its only motivation was to keep BJP out. Having succeeded in that, Congress now wants unbridled power for its own cohorts. It is on a course guided by a combination of greed and entitlement. Its hungry leaders cannot command the premium from beneficiaries that a Chief Minister can squeeze out. This hurts.
Why the hurry? Because greed is both insatiable and impatient. Each day someone in some Congress office is probably toting up revenue lost from opportunity missed. The pain must be considerable.
Deve Gowda was not as bad a PM as made out to be. But Congress-led satirists were merciless. Déjà vu.
To what purpose? The objective is to shred Kumaraswamy’s credibility in order to make his leadership untenable, drive him to the brink and then tip him over into the abyss of collapse.
To what end? Not for another election, of that we can be certain. An election would be an invitation to defeat. Congress wants to form another coalition but with Congress in charge. Once it has finished with Kumaraswamy, Congress will make lucrative offers to his MLAs to break rank if Kumaraswamy does not accept his ordained fate.
Congress has form in such manoeuvres. This is almost precisely what Congress did to Kumaraswamy’s father H.D. Deve Gowda, 22 years ago, on the national stage. Records of the echo chamber will reveal that the arguments were the same. BJP had to be kept out of power at the Centre at any cost, etc etc. Deve Gowda was plucked out of comparative obscurity and planted as PM upon an unsuspecting nation. Gowda publicly acknowledged his debt to astrology and his stars. And then Congress led the laughter as critics satirised Gowda’s personal foibles. Deve Gowda was not as bad a PM as made out to be. But Congress-led satirists were merciless. Déjà vu.
The one difference is that Congress was not the only party holding up Gowda in 1996. A rickety club of regional parties held Congress at bay for a while. But Congress support was essential for survival and when it pulled the rug in eleven months a change became inevitable. In 2018, Congress is the sole broker in Karnataka and so the game will be played according to its schedule.
The time gap will be filled by bear baiting. Congress will keep hurting and wounding the chained bear, confident that the bear cannot respond.
You can hear the sound of a breaking heart not only across geography but also across history.
(Mobashar Jawed “M.J.” Akbar is an Indian politician who is the Minister of State for External Affairs, and a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, from Madhya Pradesh.)