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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Karnataka CM faces tough battle for survival

Sudipto Mondal, Hindustan Times  Bangalore, April 12, 2014
First Published: 16:42 IST(12/4/2014) | Last Updated: 02:19 IST(13/4/2014)

In his 35-year-long political career, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has oscillated between two extremes -- repeatedly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and failing spectacularly when expected to win.

This elections, the backward classes leader finds himself at the edge of a ledge, battling both anti-incumbency and discontent of his senior colleagues.

Both the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) have termed the elections a referendum against his government while his seniormost colleagues in the party have fuelled rumours that he will be sacked if he fails to send 15 MPs to Delhi.

It has been that bad for Siddaramaiah.

After quitting the JDS and joining the Congress in 2006, Siddaramaiah surprised many by leading the Congress to its best performance in a decade during the assembly elections last summer.

With the backing of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, he became the chief minister.

However, less than a year after he scaled the pinnacle of his political career, Siddaramaiah is fighting the battle of his life.

He is hoping to bag 20 seats and silence his critics within in the party. But to get to that magic figure, he needs the help of the same people.

Elections for Karnataka's 28 seats will be held on April 17.

Siddaramaiah has earned a reputation of being reckless and undemocratic. His cabinet colleagues complain that he rarely consults them on key issues. As a result, he has been unable to push key legislations through after announcing them publicly. His detractors have started referring to him as 'Rollback Raja'.

A day after he assumed office, he announced that the government would take over the controversial Krishna temple in Udupi where subtle forms of untouchability still exist, provide 30 kilos of rice at Rs. 1 per kilo and produce cheap liquor for poor people.

"He is not the only atheist or socialist in the party. I too have similar views. But he rarely takes me or anybody else into confidence," said a minister.

His core constituency of Left-oriented writers, activists and lawyers too are unhappy with him for failing to pursue a strictly socialist agenda.

At this point, it seems the only saving grace for Siddaramaiah is his appeal among oppressed communities and his clean image.


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