As Rahul and Siddaramaiah Train Guns on JD(S), Not Many Within Congress are Amused

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, former Union minister Mallikarjun Kharge and other party leaders at a stall in Vijayapura. (File photo: PTI)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, former Union minister Mallikarjun Kharge and other party leaders at a stall in Vijayapura. (File photo: PTI)

Many in the Congress fear that an attack on the JD(S) would dent chances of a post-poll alliance. But the Siddaramaiah camp calls it a “clever” move by the CM.

D P Satish

Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah calling Janata Dal (Secular) the ‘B’ team of the BJP has led to a war of words between two parties.

Interestingly, some top Congress leaders are reportedly unhappy with their party president calling ex-prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s party an “ally of the BJP”.

During his tour of Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions, Rahul Gandhi had targeted only the BJP without uttering a word about the JD(S) since the Congress is in a direct fight with the saffron party in these areas. The JD(S) is in contest only in a handful of seats.

However, during his just concluded tour of Chikmagalur, Hassan, Mysore, Chamarajanagara and Mandya, Gandhi took on the JD(S) in its own stronghold. Without mincing his words, Gandhi attacked the JD(S) and called it an “ally” of the BJP.

Addressing well-attended public meetings in Gowda’s family bastion Hassan and later at Mysore, Gandhi said, “The ‘S’ in JD(S) no longer stands for ‘Secular’. It now stands for ‘Sangh Parivar’. The JD(S) is actually Janata Dal Sangh Parivar.”

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who was number two in the JD(S) before crossing over to the Congress in 2006, also launched a no-holds-barred attack on the JD(S). The party leaders, he said, were “businessmen” who have joined hands with the BJP to defeat the Congress by eating into some of the traditional non-BJP votes. “The JD(S) has no morality or ethics. Under Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy, it has become a ‘vote cutting’ party. They have an understanding with the BJP.”

In the recently held Rajya Sabha elections, Siddaramaiah had refused to share one seat with the JD(S), forcing a vote. The Congress won three seats and the BJP won one seat. The JD(S) had suffered a humiliating defeat. By doing this, Siddaramaiah has ended speculation of a post-poll tie-up with the JD(S) in case the Assembly elections throw up a hung verdict.

But Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah’s attack on the JD(S) hasn’t gone down well even with Congress leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, G Parameshewara and DK Shivakumar, say party insiders.

HD Kumaraswamy added fuel to fire by claiming that Siddaramaiah does not want the JD(S) to back the Congress in case of a hung Assembly because he “does not want his rivals in the party — Kharge, Parameshwara or Shivakumar — to become the next chief minister.”

But the Siddaramaiah camp claims that the attack on JD(S) is a “clever” move on the CM’s part. It says that branding JD(S) as a BJP ally would keep Muslims, Dalits, Tribals and even anti-BJP Vokkaligas away from the JD(S) as they don’t want the party to help the BJP to come to power.

Insiders also claim that the core vote banks of the BJP and JD(S) — the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, respectively — distrust each other and are not comfortable with a bonhomie between the two parties.

“He is too clever. He has now created a rift in JD(S) vote bank by calling them BJP’s ‘B’ team. If it works, it can help the Congress in getting some JD(S) votes. He knows what he is doing,” says a Siddaramaiah supporter.

But the “original” Congress leaders claim that Siddaramaiah’s personal enmity with the Gowda family is spilling over to elections and burning bridges with the JD(S) may not be a good idea as it gives legitimacy to the BJP and JD(S) to join hands after elections and have a tactical alliance before the voting.

“Siddaramaiah hates the Gowda family. It is his personal problem. He should not spoil the relationship between the Congress and JD(S) for personal reasons. Worse, we may have to knock on the doors of Gowdas after elections. Siddaramaiah has been the Chief Minister for five years. He has nothing to lose. But he should not ruin us,” says a leader.

Some feel that Siddaramaiah has convinced Rahul Gandhi about attacking the JD(S) and that the latter has walked into the “trap” without checking with ‘original’ Congress leaders first.

Not taking it lightly, the JD(S) has now launched an all-out attack on Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah, calling them “hypocrites who had once dined with the same Gowdas". “Is he saying that he is the only clean person around? Let Rahul Gandhi send me his soap. I will use the same to take bath. In 1994, as Chief Minister I had resolved the Idgah dispute at Hubli. Where were Congress people then?” asked Deve Gowda.

The BJP, too, has rubbished the claims.

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