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Berth pangs: on the Karnataka coalition impasse

 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 portfolios almost 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.

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