'Outsider' Siddaramaiah under fire from within Karnataka Congress
Siddaramaiah joined the Congress in 2006 from the Janata Dal (Secular). It was the loss of G Parameshwara, then president of the state unit of the party, in the 2013 elections that paved the way for Siddaramaiah to be made chief minister.india Updated: Apr 06, 2017 16:03 IST
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been in power in Karnataka since 2013, but to his dismay, many within the ruling Congress in the state still view him as an outsider.
That many are upset with the chief minister, into his fourth year in office, has been on display in recent times: first former chief minister and ex-foreign minister SM Krishna quit the party, accusing the state leadership of not treating him with respect.
Party veterans like B Janardhan Poojary too have been critical, blaming Siddaramaiah for Krishna’s exit. Former Union minister CK Jaffer Sharief has also voiced his displeasure with the incumbent chief minister and gone to the extent of arguing in favour of making RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat the next president of the country.
The rumblings of dissent against the chief minister of a state scheduled to hold assembly elections next year bode ill for the ruling Congress.
Political analysts in the state feel the opposition to Siddaramaiah is primarily on the ground that he is still considered an outsider. Siddaramaiah joined the Congress in 2006 from the Janata Dal (Secular). It was the loss of G Parameshwara, then president of the state unit of the party, in the 2013 elections that paved the way for Siddaramaiah to be made chief minister.
In fact, Poojary has repeatedly called for Parameshwara, a Dalit leader who has always been with the Congress, to be made chief minister if the Congress is to win in the assembly polls next year.
But analysts say the biggest setback for Siddaramaiah has been the defection of V Srinivasa Prasad to the BJP. Prasad switched sides after being dropped from the state cabinet last year.
"The loss of Prasad has dealt a severe blow to Siddaramaiah's credentials as a leader of the AHINDA grouping (a coalition of Dalits, backward classes and minority communities)," said CS Dwarkanath, former chief of the State Backward Classes Commission.
Dwarkanath said Siddaramaiah's stint as chief minister will hurt the Congress. "Upper castes resent Siddaramaiah because of his image as a champion of the lower castes, and most communities within the AHINDA grouping are angry because they feel Siddaramaiah has not delivered on his promises."
He added the general impression is that the chief minister has only helped his community of Kurubas, who are classified under the Other Backward Class category.
Sandeep Shastri, the pro-vice chancellor of Jain University, also agreed that the AHINDA may not come to the rescue of the Congress this time. "The attempt of the government should have been to consolidate its AHINDA core. But that coalition has only been weakened over the past four years," he said.
With days to go for two crucial assembly by-polls — Nanjandud and Gundlupet – all eyes are on Siddaramaiah and whether he can stall the efforts of the BJP to wrest back the state.
Though the going has got tougher for the chief minister, Narendra Pani, a political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, said there were no serious challengers to Siddaramaiah from within the party.
"Even if the party does not project Siddaramaiah as its face in the coming elections, on the ground it is fairly clear that people see him as the leader of the Congress," Pani said.
Both Pani and Shastri agreed that projecting any other leader at this point would be a blunder. "It would be a big mistake if the Congress changed its leader now, heading into an election after completing four years in government," Shastri said.