ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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ASSAM-Testing Times

minister appears to be a matter-of-course affair, the process was of import for political developments outside the state. The smoothness with which the changeover took place belies the various factors at work in Karnataka. On the one hand, J H Patel was after all the deputy chief minister and his ascendance as chief minister was a normal step, a 'natural' course as Patel himself described it. On the other hand, there were six contenders: the rural development and panchayati raj minister M PPrakash, finance minister K Siddaramiah, home minister PG R Sindhia, revenue minister R L Jalappa and possibly even S R Bommai. It was probably with the intention of avoiding a lingayat vs vokkaliga contest that Deve Gowda proposed Bommai, a lingayat, as a candidate, although it was Gowda who in 1989 had made it possible for the then governor to dismiss the Bommai government. The main complicating factor was of course Ramakrishna Hegde's peevish response to Deve Gowda' s election as leader of the United Front. Hegde's penchant for what most commentators see as putting a spoke in the wheel led to dissonance in the Janata Dal in Karnataka. After all JD's success in Karnataka in the recent elections had owed much to the building of bridges between Gowda and Hegde and the consequent consolidation of lingayat and vokkaliga votes in its favour. Resolution of the Hegde- Gowda rivalry is also necessary for the smooth functioning of the United Front, which could do without further buffeting from the undercurrents in the Karnataka JD, However, that Patel, a lingayat, is a Hegde nominee is as significant as the fact that Gowda and his supporters acquiesced in his selection, Gowda's tenure as chief minister has been marked by low-key moves, largely avoiding public confrontations on issues within the party and without. In accepting the Hegde nominee, a proven administrative , hand, to take charge of state affairs, Gowda has given in gracefully and ensured that the caste combination continues to work in favour of the JD. This also is a sort of bulwark against further shenanigans by Hegde. There is apparently some move to offer Hegde an ambassadorial assignment, but while that is still in the realm of speculation, with his nominee in the saddle in Karnataka, he is less liable to rock the boat. The ideal arrangement lor Gowda of course would have been to induct Patel as a central minister and have Siddaramaiah, a vokkaliga, as the chief minister at home. This was not to be.

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