Berth Pangs: On The Karnataka Coalition Impasse: The Hindu Editorial

The Hindu Editorial

Berth Pangs: On The Karnataka Coalition Impasse: The Hindu Editorial

Quick and bold decisions are more often made during moments of crises than during periods of relative calm and quiet. After sealing a deal on a post-poll coalition in Karnataka even before the counting of votes drew to a close, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are unable to reach an understanding on Cabinet berths and portfoliosalmost a week after the coalition proved its majority on the floor of the Assembly. Other than on having H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) as the Chief Minister and G. Parameshwara of the Congress as the Deputy Chief Minister, the two parties have been unable to agree on the contours of the coalition government. The Congress, which was hurried into conceding considerable ground to the JD(S) by a fast-moving opponent in the Bharatiya Janata Party, is now driving a hard bargain on the strength of its own numbers. The reasoning is that the party, with twice as many members as the JD(S) in the Assembly, should have its choice of ministries such as finance, home, public works and energy as the bigger partner that had stepped back from the race for the chief ministership. Otherwise, this would leave the JD(S) as the recognisable face of the government, leaving little for the Congress. The JD(S) appears willing to concede more berths to the Congress, but would like to have some of the key portfolios, especially finance, for itself. In the post-GST regime the finance portfolio in a State is shorn of substantial tax-levying powers, but the presentation of the budget in the Assembly is still the occasion for announcing schemes and major policy initiatives. The home portfolio is important for the control of the police force, and its intelligence wing. Indeed, the first major decision that B.S. Yeddyurappa took after being sworn in Chief Minister was to make appointments to the intelligence wing of the police. Public works, another sought-after portfolio, allows the minister in charge control over construction of government buildings and road works with huge outlays. Public works contractors constitutethe middle rungs in most political parties, and ministers need to distribute patronage, favours and contracts to keep up their own network of power and influence. The more protracted the tussle for berths and portfolios, the harder it will be for the new government to infuse confidence in the public mind about the post-poll coalition. After having thwarted the BJP by offering unconditional support to the JD(S), the Congress cannot afford to get into an unseemly scramble for portfolios now. But neither can it allow the JD(S) to run the government as its own show. Tact is everything in reaching a compromise.


1) Coalition
Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.
Example: “a coalition between Liberals and Conservatives”
Synonyms: Alliance, Union
2) Drew to a close
Meaning: To gradually finish.
Example: As the evening drew to a close, people started reaching for their coats.
3) Portfolios
Meaning: The particular job or area of responsibility that a member of a government has.
Example: One of the most significant changes is in the trade portfolio.
4) Contours
Meaning: An outline representing or bounding the shape or form of something.
Example: “she traced the contours of his face with her finger”
Synonyms: Outline, Form
5) Conceding
Meaning: Admit or agree that something is true after first denying or resisting it.
Example: “I had to concede that I’d overreacted”
Synonyms: Admit, Accept
Antonyms: Deny
6) Fast-moving
Meaning: Rapid in movement, action, or progress.
Example: “a fast-moving train switching tracks at high speed”
7) Bargain
Meaning: An agreement between two people or groups in which each promises to do something in exchange for something else.
Example: The management and employees eventually struck/made a bargain.
Synonyms: Agreement
8) Stepped back
Meaning: To temporarily stop being involved in an activity or situation in order to think about it in a new way.
Example: Let’s just step back from the problem and think about what we could do.
Synonyms: Abstaining, Refraining
9) Recognisable
Meaning: Able to be recognized or identified from previous encounters or knowledge.
Example: “there was no recognizable photograph of him”
Synonyms: Identifiable, Noticeable
Antonyms: Imperceptible
10) Regime
Meaning: A government, especially an authoritarian one.
Example: “ideological opponents of the regime”
Synonyms: Management, Authority
11) Shorn of
Meaning: To have something taken away from you.
Example: The ex-president, although shorn of his official powers, still has influence.
Synonyms: Cutting, Stabbing
12) Outlays
Meaning: An amount of money spent on something.
Example: “a modest outlay on local advertising”
Synonyms: Expenditure, Investment
13) Constitute
Meaning: To be or be considered as something.
Example: This latest defeat constitutes a major setback for the Democrats.
14) Rungs
Meaning: A position in an organization or system with many levels.
Example: Job replacement primarily occurs at the bottom rungs of the labor market ladder.
15) Patronage
Meaning: The power to control appointments to office or the right to privileges.
Example: “recruits are selected on merit, not through political patronage”
Synonyms: Partiality, Partisanship
16) Protracted
Meaning: Lasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual.
Example: “a protracted and bitter dispute”
17) Tussle
Meaning: A vigorous struggle or scuffle, typically in order to obtain or achieve something.
Example: “there was a tussle for the ball”
Synonyms: Struggle, Fight
18) Thwarted
Meaning: Oppose (a plan, attempt, or ambition) successfully.
Example: “the government had been able to thwart all attempts by opposition leaders to form new parties”
Synonyms: Foil, Frustrate
Antonyms: Assist, Facilitate
19) Unconditional
Meaning: Not subject to any conditions.
Example: “unconditional surrender”
Synonyms: Unqualified, Unlimited
Antonyms: Conditional
20) Scramble
Meaning: An eager or uncontrolled and undignified struggle with others to obtain or achieve something.
Example: “I lost Tommy in the scramble for a seat”
Synonyms: Struggle, Hurry

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