Siddaramaiah’s Survival Skills Changing Karnataka’s Political Landscape, Advantage BJP

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah
    • One seat result is going to alter the landscape of politics in Karnataka
    • The twin elections of Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha could not have come at any right time for Siddaramaiah

One person’s efforts are likely to benefit another person, more importantly the opponent. This is the realty of politics in Karnataka after the elections for Rajya Sabha seat. One seat result is going to alter the landscape of politics in Karnataka.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been under considerable political pressure due to controversies surrounding an expensive watch given to him as a gift and a government contract for the company connected with his son. Consequently, the chief minister missed many self-imposed deadlines for cabinet expansion, which allows a leader to send different messages of power.

He had to overcome these handicaps and assert his authority as his government completed three years in office. The twin elections of Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha could not have come at any right time for Siddaramaiah.

The chief minster ensured the victory of KC Ramamurthy, Congress party’s third RS candidate with short of requisite votes, after smooth sailing in Legislative Council polls. Ramamurthy could not have won only on Congress support as the party fell short of 45 votes required for his election (Congress with 122 MLAs could guarantee victory of two candidates). In fact, despite party leadership’s reluctance, Siddaramaiah had managed to convince Congress High Command to support Ramamurthy from influential Reddy community.

Ramamurthy’s victory came (highest number of 52 votes, more than party favourites secured) with a rebellion in Janata Dal (S).

For his immediate gain, Siddaramaiah engineered JD(S) revolt by making eight JD(S) MLAs defy party whip and vote for Ramamurthy while ditching party president H D Kumaraswamy’s candidate BM Farooq.

There is also long term benefit from this episode, mired in alleged cash for vote scam. If these eight MLAs leave JD(S), Siddaramaiah stands to gain substantial influence in Old Mysore area of the state. N Cheluvarayaswamy, one of the rebellious MLA of the JD(S) has considerable hold in Mandya district, which stands between Siddaramaiah’s Mysore district and Kumaraswamy’s Ramnagara district. With Mandya in kitty, Siddaramaiah can nibble at JD(S) backyard of Hassan and Ramnagara. Hassan is Kumaraswamy’s father and former prime minister HD Devegowda’s fiefdom.

How does this strategy benefit Siddaramaiah’s opponent? Bharatiya Janata Party has recently anointed BS Yeddyurappa as party president in Karnataka. He will now be Siddaramaiah’s main opponent as JD(S) is disintegrating.

In coming days the JD(S) will lose its backbone and there is no second line of leadership in the party to rebuild it. Devegowda is aging and Kumaraswamy does not enjoy the best of health. Gowda’s other son, HD Revanna, does lack a deft combination of articulation and aggressiveness required for a leader.

Thus, Siddaramaiah has, rather unwittingly, ensured a direct fight and Yeddyurappa is a dangerous opponent in a straight contest. Karnataka has a history of average voting percentage, and a direct contest should benefit BJP, known for grassroots politics and polarisation of voters.

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