Neither complaints about the increasing powers of Congress legislative party leader Siddaramaiah in the Congress-JD(S) government, nor the recent dissolution of the party unit in Karnataka, seems to have threatened the position of the former chief minister who still has a final say in vital matters of the coalition government in the state. Political observers say the bargaining power of the leader in keeping the coalition government intact is what makes him immune to complaints and major party overhauls.
From stalling the JSW land deal in Ballari, scrapping of the steel flyover project in Bengaluru to the cabinet expansion and reorganisation of the Congress in the state, Siddaramaiah, has a greater say in important decisions.
Driven by its rout in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress in a bid to restructure the organization and regain its strength in the state, recently dissolved its Karnataka unit. Incidentally, the only people the party retained – state president Dinesh Gundu Rao and working president Eshwar Khandre – are close to Siddaramaiah.
In the days to come, the party will appoint more young leaders to take the forefront. Rao, son of former Karnataka chief minister Gundu Rao, succeeded G Parameshwara last year after he was made the deputy chief minister in the coalition government in Karnataka.
Congress which had close to 310 officer bearers including vice-presidents, secretaries and general secretaries, will rebuild the party at the grass roots level.
Last week, speculations were rife that JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda, during his meeting with the Congress high command, raised concerns about Siddaramaiah and insisted that insisting that two Congress ministers be dropped to accommodate rebel MLAs. Nothing of that sort happened and Kumaraswamy expanded the cabinet by filling vacant berths.
“Siddaramaiah is the Congress’ legislative party leader. If not him, who else will bargain well for the party. People are unhappy, yes. The party will demote inefficient leaders while restructuring the organization,” Sathyan Puthoor, former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary said.
The flurry of press conferences called by Deve Gowda, Congress party leaders, and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, indicate the rising tension with the coalition. Siddaramaiah, who split from the JD(S) after a fierce battle with former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, was a common enemy for the JD(S) and senior Congress leaders who felt left out.
Meanwhile, A H Vishwanath, the JD(S) president who resigned from the party earlier this month, hit out at Siddaramaiah for disregarding and suspending senior leader Roshan Baig, the Congress MLA who recently vent out his anger against the state party leadership, for anti- party activities.
“Siddaramaiah’s personal vindictiveness killed the prospects of prominent senior leaders in the party. Siddaramaiah would have done the same to me (suspended) had I continued in Congress,” Vishwanath told reporters on Thursday. He has threatened to quit as an MLA (from Hunsur) and weaken the coalition, if Gowda doesn’t accept his resignation.
But, Siddaramaiah did not let things go out of hand. He camped in Delhi on June 19 to discuss the poll debacle with party senior leaders.
Speaking to reporters, while Siddaramaiah indicated that there was no threat to the ruling government, he however seems to have made a point to the Congress high command that JD(S) was growing at the cost of Congress and it wasn’t going well with the workers on ground.
Kumaraswamy, who expressed that he was in pain of heading the coalition government, called on former opposition leader Mallikarjuna Kharge and discussed on the lack of coordination between the two parties.