Bengaluru: Politics is a strange business. And former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah knows that. After failing to bring the Congress back to power in the state, he has been forced to do business with his arch rivals: the Gowdas.
According to his confidantes, Siddaramaiah would have preferred Yeddyurappa over HD Kumaraswamy.
The Congress high command wants the JDS-Congress coalition to survive and Siddaramaiah is being forced to accept the harsh realities of politics.
After speaking so much against PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and state chief BS Yeddyurappa, the former CM can’t take the blame for bringing the BJP back to power. But he is increasingly uncomfortable with the Gowda clan running the state and the Congress playing second fiddle to them.
Siddaramaiah started making noise about the coalition government after it formed the cabinet three weeks ago. Many of his loyalist MLAs have been left out of the cabinet and he is understandably angry.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi knew that if someone were to create trouble it would be Siddaramaiah and made him the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader and also chairman of the Congress–JDS coordination committee to keep him happy and under control.
Siddaramaiah, however, does not seem to be happy with this and left for a naturopathy centre near Mangalore, claiming that he was too tired and needed some detox treatment to rejuvenate his body and soul.
Interestingly, his loyalist MLAs met him there and their “private” conversation was leaked to the media by some mysterious people. According to some state Congress leaders, Siddaramaiah is using these people to send a strong message to both the Gowdas and Rahul Gandhi that he still matters and they should not offend him.
Siddaramaiah wants at least 2-3 loyalists of him to be inducted into the cabinet and a leader of his choice to be made the KPCC president.
Kumaraswamy, who shares an uneasy relationship with Siddaramaiah, is aware of it and told Rahul Gandhi that he should rein in him if he wanted to save the government. A JDS leader said “more than the Gowdas, Rahul Gandhi wants this government to survive. If the government goes, Congress will lose everything. Not Kumaraswamy. He can go back to the BJP and play the victim."
Second, the JDS–Congress coalition government came into existence for several reasons. Most of them are national and not local. The non-BJP/NDA regional parties forced the Congress and JDS to come together to take on Modi under the umbrella of a grand alliance in the Lok Sabha 2019 elections and if the experiment fails, they will not forgive Congress.
Keeping these sensitive issues in mind, Rahul Gandhi has put the onus of keeping the shaky government alive on his party leaders in Karnataka. And he is bending backwards to keep the Gowdas happy.
To keep the pressure on the Congress, Kumaraswamy is also maintaining a good relationship with PM Modi. Understandably, the state BJP is focusing more on the Congress and refraining from attacking the JDS.
If the Kumaraswamy government collapses before the Lok Sabha elections, Congress and Siddaramaiah will have to take the blame. The BJP wants that to happen. That way it won’t be blamed for the collapse will not have to face the Vokkaliga backlash.
One has to wait and see how much clout Rahul Gandhi still has over Siddaramaiah to save the government. Rahul will definitely make all possible efforts to keep the government intact because he has invested everything in it.