On October 19, exactly a week before the JD(S) managed an amazing turnaround and declared its "unconditional support" to the BJP, it issued a verbose, full-page advertisement in all major Kannada dailies chargesheeting that party on 26 counts. Besides the usual charges of corruption, communalism and collusion with those working against Karnataka's 'interests', it said B.S. Yediyurappa, the man it now supports as CM, was one of the "worst finance ministers ever" in the country's legislative history. He was portrayed a buffoon without the capacity to comprehend even the most basic procedures.
Why, a week, even a day before Kumaraswamy handed over his party's letter of support to the governor, the powerful 'Bellary brigade' of the BJP, which had been raided by the IT department, had resorted to the most heinous terms to describe the Gowda family. They held the family responsible for the raids and swore revenge. The whole party, including Yediyurappa, had gone to town over the Rs 150-crore mining bribe and murder charges against Kumaraswamy, both of which originated with the Bellary brigade. This is shorthand for the power trio of G. Karunakara Reddy (the sitting MP), B. Sriramulu (tourism minister under Kumaraswamy) and local satrap Janardhan Reddy, all rich mine owners and close to Sushma Swaraj, who retains links with the constituency that hosted her famous fight against Sonia Gandhi.
On his part, Kumaraswamy had been spending all his time in TV studios explaining why he had not transferred power. His most favourite line: the BJP would spread communal hatred. After all this, why did Gowda and son change colour? Sources say the tactical logic in going back to BJP is two-pronged. One, it would spare the JD(S) of the charge of 'betrayal' it faced after reneging on its promise to transfer power on October 3. The swell of sympathy for the BJP had unnerved the family. Secondly, it had become apparent that there would be a straight contest between the Congress and BJP if elections were to happen in the near future. The JD(S) was being counted out. Gowda had to extricate himself and his sons out of this doomsday situation.
But Gowda's rapprochement with the BJP is largely for the effect, with no conviction behind it. Gowda, who has a decent understanding of constitutional law, knows there are enough hurdles before the governor to be able to invite the BJP to form a government. There is Gowda's own letter to the governor, PM and president, requesting them to dissolve the assembly and prevent horse-trading. Even after the JD(S) pledged support to the BJP, Gowda has not withdrawn this letter or corrected his position.
An interesting spillover has been the jumping into the fray of intellectuals, which has somewhat polarised the debate. If Kannada writers like Girish Karnad, U.R. Ananthamurthy and Devanuru Mahadeva want the assembly dissolved forthwith, another section like M. Chidananda Murthy, Sumathindra Nadig and Ham. Pa. Nagarajaiah urged the governor to give the BJP a chance. After meeting the governor, Ananthamurthy asked: "The sheer lust for power we are witness to is making people disinterested in the democratic process. The BJP and JD(S) have hurled the choicest abuses against each other, now it is shameful to see them come together to share the spoils of power again. How can one expect them to provide a stable government?"
But Chidananda Murthy counters: "The BJP should be given a chance. It is not communal, in fact it is needed to protect the culture of this country. People of the state realise it has the largest number of MLAs." Interestingly, both parties are playing up Governor Rameshwar Thakur's association with the JP movement of the '70s and believe he will deliver justice.