The Congress needs to be accommodative of smaller parties

After much drama, Karnataka finally has a new coalition government headed by Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara also took oath as his deputy on the granite steps of the majestic Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. Cheering them from the dais was a constellation of Opposition leaders. Even as JD(S) supporters in the crowd endorsed their leader, it cannot have escape anyone’s attention that this would not have happened had it not been for the blessings of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. A week ago, this picture would have been hard to imagine. The outcome of the elections meant that Karnataka was almost in the grasp of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Just eight seats short of a majority, it was ready to deploy every method possible to ensure that it gained a southern beachhead. Only the timely intervention of the Supreme Court, and more importantly, the speed and alacrity with which the Congress party reacted, ensured otherwise. The Congress went out of its way to accommodate the JD(S), a party which got half the number of its seats.

While it can be argued that the Congress had no choice but to be accommodative, it has shown an impressive degree of speed and flexibility to ensure that it lives to fight another day. Under the new Congress president, decision-making seems to be simpler and faster. The Congress needs to adopt this template in other states, where regional parties are players in their own right, if it wants to build a broad anti-BJP coalition for 2019.

The Congress is already looking to push this model in Goa. The worry in the Congress will , of course, be whether ceding the top position in a state would affect the party in the long run. This is a genuine concern, but given that the party is facing an existential crisis, it has to more sensitive to regional players. The regional parties are as worried about an all conquering BJP as the Congress. It is in their interests too to partner with the Congress in what could be a win-win situation for all of them.