The drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, a resurgent BJP, the lack of unity within his own party combined with a spate of recent controversies surrounding his government has finally forced chief minister Siddaramaiah to bend.
He has publicly sought the help of the Janata Dal (Secular) to defeat BS Yeddyurappa's son BY Raghavendra in the upcoming bypolls to the Shikaripura assembly seat in Shimoga.
Raghavendra starts as a firm favourite in this seat which his father has represented six times since 1983. Yeddyurappa resigned as Shikaripura MLA after he won the Shimoga Lok Sabha seat by a margin of 3.62 lakh votes in May.
Siddaramaiah justified the pre-poll alliance with the JD (S) by echoing the sentiment expressed by Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Mulayam Singh in UP. "The BJP is a communal force. All secular forces should unite to defeat it," he told reporters on Wednesday on the sidelines of the campaign, which is increasingly being seen as a final test of his leadership.
Surprisingly, local JD (S) leaders – including MLA Madhu Bangarappa, son of former chief minister S Bangarappa – have responded enthusiastically to Siddaramaiah's call.
Bangarappa, whose sister Geeta Shivarajkumar lost miserably to Yeddyurappa in these general elections, told HT, "This is the question of the party's survival. Of course, we also want to defeat communal forces." Ironically, both he and his late father have spent time in the BJP before this.
But here's the real contradiction: While JD (S) workers campaign for the Congress candidate in Shikaripura, their leader and former CM HD Kumaraswamy is railing against Siddaramaiah and his government in the State capital. In a series of demonstrations over the last fortnight, Kumaraswamy has accused Siddaramaiah of corruption and maladministration, even demanding his resignation.
As the JDU-RJD drama plays out in Bihar, it is hard to ignore the similarities between Siddaramaiah (66), who is from the backward Kuruba community, and Nitish (63), who is a Kurmi.
The Bihar CM split with Lalu in 1994 after he openly supported a backward class mobilisation for internal reservations against Lalu's core constituency – the Yadavs. Siddaramaiah was sacked by the JD (S) in 2005 when he supported a similar mobilization of backward classes, Dalits and minorities (AHINDA) against party president H D Deve Gowda's core constituency – the Vokkaligas.
What's more, both the socialist leaders rose to become Chief Ministers less than a decade after they split from the parties that they helped form.
Like Nitish, Siddaramaiah's relation with his former party – particularly Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy – has been defined by a bitterness that exceeds mere political rivalry.
Seeking to remind his supporters of this enmity, Kumaraswamy told HT on Thursday, "The support for the Congress candidate in Shikaripura is a local arrangement. This is just to keep communal forces at bay." Is this the beginning of a new chapter in JD (S)-Congress relations? "I don't know…it's not relevant," he said.