Bengaluru: Former Karnataka chief minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy is convinced that the blame for his government’s collapse lies with “ally” and predecessor Siddaramaiah of the Congress.
“For Siddaramaiah, the JD(S) is the first enemy, even before the BJP,” he told ThePrint in an interview. “He was never happy with the government formation under me.”
The fragile coalition government propped up by rivals JD(S) and Congress after the May 2018 assembly election collapsed last month following mass resignations by MLAs of the two ruling parties.
The government had been shaky from the start, with the Congress conceding the chief minister’s chair to the JD(S) despite winning more seats, in a desperate bid to keep the BJP, the biggest winner in the election’s fractured mandate, from office.
Throughout its term, the Congress-JD(S) government courted reports of deep dissonance, especially between Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy, who have had uneasy ties since their days as party colleagues in the JD(S).
In fact, it was the rise of Kumaraswamy, the son of JD(S) chief H.D. Deve Gowda, in the party that set the stage for Siddaramaiah’s eventual exit in 2005.
Speaking to ThePrint, Kumaraswamy said the Congress — specifically, Siddaramaiah — sought to undermine his position throughout their time in government.
At every step, he added, it was made known to him that Siddaramaiah believed “Kumaraswamy was not good for the Congress”.
“So there were attempts made to hurt my morale by getting Siddaramaiah loyalists to make statements saying they want him (Siddu) back in the CM’s chair if they want their support,” he said.
“Even during the dissident activities, they kept saying that they will come back to the party fold if Siddaramaiah is made CM,” Kumaraswamy added. “What does that tell you? Shouldn’t he have controlled them and kept them in check? He did not do that.”
Echoing father Deve Gowda
According to Kumaraswamy, Siddaramaiah saw an opportunity in the BJP forming the government. If B.S. Yediyurappa fails to run his government effectively and it were to fall, he said, Siddaramaiah, as the opposition leader, would have another opportunity to reach for the CM’s chair.
Kumaraswamy’s remarks come close on the heels of Deve Gowda’s interview to The Hindu this week in which he said Siddaramaiah had resolved to destroy the JD(S) and was responsible for his and his grandson’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.
“His resolve to destroy the JD(S) became stronger after his defeat in Mysuru (Chamundeshwari) in the 2018 elections,” the senior Gowda said, referring to Siddaramaiah’s loss in one of the two assembly seats he contested last year.
Kumaraswamy endorsed his father’s comment. “He was one of our own. We have never backstabbed him. When he was in the JD(S), and a deputy CM, he started a parallel group under the name of AHINDA (Kannada acronym for backward castes, minorities and Dalits, considered a Congress votebank) to try and stop the growth of the JD(S),” said the former CM.
“That is when we felt cheated and expelled him. It was for his anti-party activities. He was working against the party.”
When reached for a reaction to the allegations, Siddaramaiah, who was touring his constituency Badami, refused to comment. Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundurao acknowledged that there were differences between the two leaders, but said it was unfair on the part of the JD(S) to “pin the blame on one person”.
“There were issues regarding coordination, issues regarding his style of functioning and also the BJP had gone very aggressive with their Operation Kamala (an alleged bid by the BJP to engineer defections in the opposition),” he added.
“Siddaramaiah tried his best to save the government even when the government was shaky. This allegation is totally wrong… It is the JD(S) that needs to seriously self-introspect,” Gundurao added.
‘Not sure about future in politics’
As chief minister, Kumaraswamy said, he felt “tied down and under pressure” from the Congress, which treated him like “a first-division clerk”.
“When I was CM, I worked for them as a first-division clerk,” he added. “They… took advantage of me. If there was a transfer that had to be initiated, like that of a deputy commissioner, though the department was in my purview, I had to act according to their directions and implement their decisions.”
The entire experience of the Congress alliance and its aftermath, said Kumaraswamy, had taken a toll on his desire to be in politics.
“Today, politics is not for good-hearted people. I am not sure about my future in it,” he added. “I am only hanging around because of the love and affection of my party workers. I am what I am today because of their support.”