Siddaramaiah and BJP in Karnataka
Observers say Parameshwar (left) is coming close to Siddaramaiah and the latter is duly showing empathy towards his former rival.

Congress stalwarts Siddaramaiah, Parameshwar patch up to take on common rival

The two had left no chance to stymie each other’s fortunes in the past; now, in the event of Congress winning Karnataka polls in 2023, they face a formidable challenge in DK Shivakumar for CM chair

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Two political stalwarts, one a Dalit leader and the other a leader rallied by the minorities and backward classes, belonging to the same political party, but mostly at loggerheads. It was very evident how they tried to dump each other. They succeeded once, failed twice.

But, as the cliche goes, there is no permanent friend nor foe in politics. So, the two have  now become friends, at least for the time being. Perhaps, it is the changing political scenario that has forced them to join hands.

This is the tale of Karnataka’s Opposition leader Siddaramaiah and former Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G Parameshwar.

Also read: 75th birthday bash for Siddaramaiah leaves Karnataka Congress divided

Both hail from humble social backgrounds; Siddaramaiah from the backward class and Parameshwar from the Dalit community. But they rarely liked each other. Now, it seems, Parameshwar is coming close to Siddaramaiah and the latter is duly showing empathy towards the former. The event that has helped them find a reason to cosy up is Siddaramaiah Amritha Mahotsav -75, the 75th birthday celebrations of the leader, scheduled for August 3 at Davanagere, a central Karnataka district.

While KPCC chief DK Shivakumar initially made his displeasure known to the world about the event, he had to swallow his ego and come around to accept it after a mild nudge from former AICC president Rahul Gandhi.

Cosying up to each other

In stark contrast, Parameshwar, who is also a CM aspirant and has always stayed in Siddaramaiah’s rival camp, readily expressed his support for the event, surprising many. When Siddaramaiah’s close aids formed a committee under the chairmanship of former minister RV Deshpande and “Siddaramotsava” was announced, Parameshwar welcomed it and said there is nothing wrong in celebrating the event for a leader like Siddaramaiah. “It’s a happy moment for all of us,” he declared.

A surprise indeed it was, but a pleasant one for the party workers as the two leaders were earlier reportedly not talking to each other. After a few days of declaring his happiness, Parameshwara promptly attended the event’s preparation meeting too, and praised Siddaramaiah by calling him “the only the leader in Karnataka who is following the values of Dr BR Ambedkar”.

He also said, “There is a commitment behind the personality of Siddaramaiah. I have seen him closely while I served as KPCC chief for eight years. I have understood only 60 per cent of his personality.”

Reasons for change

It is being argued that Parmeshwara is trying to cosy up to Siddaramaiah because of the compulsions in his home constituency, Koratagere. In the 2013 Karnataka Assembly elections, he was defeated by a JD-S candidate when he was the KPCC chief and when his name was at the forefront in the race for chief ministership. His loss was a blessing for Siddaramaiah.

It is generally believed that it was Siddaramaiah who brought about Parameshwar’s defeat by blocking the Kuruba votes from going the latter’s way. Parameshwar, of course, duly reciprocated the gesture by allegedly playing a key role in Siddaramaiah’s defeat at Chamundeshwari constituency in the last elections by blocking the Dalit votes.

Siddaramaiah, when he was the CM, made Parameshwar wait for long to be made an MLC and, consequently, a minister in his cabinet. Though Parameshwar was given the important portfolio of the home ministry, Siddaramaiah planted his close aide and confidante Kempaiah, a former IPS officer, as an advisor to the Home Minister. Who controlled the department was anybody’s guess.

Parameshwar, in turn, had kept himself in the rival team that comprised DK Shivakumar, BK Hariprasad and others and allegedly kept on posting complaints to the high command against Siddaramaiah. He was also allegedly behind the campaign in the party on the Moola versus Valasiga (original versus migrant) lines in order to highlight Siddaramaiah’s ‘outsider’ status.  It had spoiled the image of the party in the state.

Joining forces to face a common rival

But this time, neither Parameshwar nor Siddaramaiah would like to take such a chance as they are now both challenged by another force called DK Shivakumar (DKS).

It’s clear that Siddaramaiah wants to be CM again, but the problem for him is choosing a constituency for himself. Parameshwar wants to be CM, too, and has a constituency in sight as well, but he is not sure he can win without the support of Siddaramaiah.

As recently as this May, Siddaramaiah had caused enough discomfort and angst for Parameshwar by attending a Kuruba convention. Parameshwar’s worry was, whether his home constituency would again be disrupted by Siddaramaiah through his confident KN Rajanna. Rajanna, alleged to have been against Parameshwar, is a threat to the latter. Acknowledging Siddaramaiah’s sway over voters from the AHINDA community, and also keeping in mind the disruptions that may be caused by Rajanna, Parameshwar has now probably chosen to be wiser for his experience and has closed ranks with the former chief minister.

He knows that he can effectively play the Dalit card and usurp the CM’s chair if he manages to win from his constituency. But to win — and also to thwart any mischief by the other mighty contender, DKS — he needs support. In the backdrop of shadow boxing between DKS and Siddaramaiah, Parameshwar’s calculation, according to sources, is to bide his time as a deputy chief minister or even a minister under Siddaramaiah for some time (of course, presuming that his party gets the mandate to form the government) and then bid for chief ministership in the second half of the term. It’s possible for such an understanding to have been reached between the two, according to a senior Congress leader.

Rahul’s intervention

They both know that if they can hold the AHINDA (Minorities, Backward Class and Dalits) flock together, and ride on DKS’ Vokkaliga card and MB Patil’s influence over the Lingayats to get a significant chunk of those communities to stand by them, they can get the Congress to power in 2023. Once that’s achieved, they will have only their common rival, DKS, to contend with.

Also read: How Rajya Sabha poll setback will impact JD(S) in Karnataka

According to sources in the party, Rahul intervened and asked all the leaders, including Siddaramaiah, DKS and Parameshwar, to close ranks and exhibit ‘togetherness’ at ‘Siddaramotsva’ so that the party could kickstart its election campaign from the event itself. It is said that he has also asked both Siddaramaiah and Parameshwar to together strengthen the AHINDA vote bank, which will help them both in the future. It may be the other reason for Parameshwar to come close to Siddaramaiah.

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