JD(S) chief H.D. Deve Gowda has sprung to son and Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy’s defence, hitting out at Congress leader and former aide Siddaramaiah.
Bengaluru: The political differences between Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and his predecessor Siddaramaiah are out in the open, and the already-shaky coalition between their respective Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress parties is being rocked further by repeated statements from Congress leaders calling Siddaramaiah their CM and taking potshots at Kumaraswamy.
On day one of the two-day national executive meeting of the JD(S), the first since the coalition government came to power in Karnataka last May, Kumaraswamy’s father, party chief and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, came to his son’s defence and decided to address the elephant in the room: Siddaramaiah. He asked the Congress high command to rein in its state leaders, who were trying to interfere in his son’s governance.
The JD(S) leader’s outburst came after some Congress MLAs, including S.T. Somashekhar, said that for them, Siddaramaiah is the CM. Somashekhar had also said there has been hardly any development in Karnataka in the last few months.
Siddaramaiah was once Deve Gowda’s trusted aide, and served as the state’s deputy chief minister twice — in 1996 under J.H. Patel, and again under Dharam Singh in 2004. But their relations soured in 2005, and he was expelled from the party. Kumaraswamy went on to become CM in 2006, while Siddaramaiah joined the Congress.
He rose to the CM’s chair by leading the Congress to victory in 2013, but lost his mandate in the 2018 elections, which saw the BJP emerge as the single-largest party but short of majority. After the JD(S) and the Congress tied up to keep the BJP out of power, Siddaramaiah joined Deve Gowda on the same stage, nearly 13 years after his expulsion.
At that time, Kumaraswamy had told the media that Deve Gowda and Siddaramaiah were two different bodies with the same heart and soul.
‘Siddaramaiah nursing a grudge’
Speaking to a huge gathering at the Palace Grounds in Bengaluru, Deve Gowda said Kumaraswamy is hurt by the statements made by some Congress leaders. Training his guns on Siddaramaiah, the former PM said he had been nursing a wound for the past several years, since his ambition of being chief minister did not materialise when he was with the JD(S).
“At that time, Siddaramaiah had told me that if I had pressurised the Congress high command, he would have had a chance to be the CM instead of Kumaraswamy,” Deve Gowda said, referring to the earlier Congress-JD(S) coalition government in the state, after the 2004 assembly polls threw up a hung assembly.
“He (Siddaramaiah) has been nursing a grudge against us as he thinks I had scuttled his chances of becoming CM on two occasions: Once, when I vacated the post after being chosen as PM in 1996, and the second time, when we formed a coalition government with the Congress in 2004. I am ready to discuss this with Siddaramaiah.”
Why Kumaraswamy is willing to step down
Kumaraswamy took the opportunity to clarify why he said he would step down from the CM post if required.
“Yes, I had said I would step down if Congress leaders continue to take potshots at me. If they repeatedly make such statements, how many more days do you think I can tolerate? Power is transient, what is permanent is you (party workers) and the 6.5 crore people of this state,” he said.
Kumaraswamy also said he had made a mistake in the past by not heeding his father’s advice in 2006 when it came to appointments to boards and corporations, but he will not make that mistake again.
“I have requested the party chief (Deve Gowda) to prepare the list of names of appointments to various boards and corporations to avoid any confusion in running a coalition government,” he said, explaining that these appointments have been a cause of heartburn among legislators.
Kumaraswamy also said there are threats of destabilising his government on a daily basis, be it on Sankranthi or Rajyotsava (Karnataka’s statehood day), or just before his budget presentation.
“How am I to ask my officials to address people’s problems? Just think of the situation I am in… However, I should be grateful to my legislators who have stood behind me,” he said.
A shaky alliance
The two allies have gone through a flurry of developments, statements and counter-statements since coming together to keep the BJP out of power in the Karnataka assembly polls last May. The political tightrope they are walking has given an opportunity to the BJP, which has made attempts to poach legislators.
Four MLAs who were part of the coalition have already crossed over to the other side, and the deepening cracks between the JD(S) and the Congress are certainly not helping the state government function smoothly.
Kumaraswamy has made some startling comments, such as calling himself a “clerk” rather than a CM, largely due to Congress interference. He had also made an emotional statement, saying he was “not happy” being in the top post and was swallowing the pain like ‘Vishakantha’ — Lord Shiva, who drank poison.
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