‘Congress MLAs crossing the line’: HD Kumaraswamy offers to quit as Karnataka CM
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‘Congress MLAs crossing the line’: HD Kumaraswamy offers to quit as Karnataka CM

The seven-month-old Kumaraswamy government has faced multiple challenges since it came to power last May.

lok sabha elections Updated: Jan 28, 2019 18:15 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
HD Kumaraswamy,Karnataka,JD(S)
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has threatened to quit after a Congress MLA said former CM Siddaramaiah is their CM.(AP)

The friction in the uneasy alliance between the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka escalated today with chief minister HD Kumaraswamy threatening to quit and accusing Congress MLAs of ‘crossing the line’.

An irate Kumaraswamy said he was ready to step down if coalition partner Congress decided it wanted to continue with Siddaramaiah. “It will not affect me, but Congress leaders. They must control their MLAs. If in open meetings, if they react like this, it is left to them. If they want to continue (with Siddaramaiah) I am ready to step down, they must think about all these things. Yes, they are crossing a line,” he told ANI.

The provocation for Kumaraswamy seems to be the statement of a Congress MLA on Sunday that former CM Siddaramaiah should have got one more opportunity. MLA S.T. Somashekar said that development work in Bengaluru city had slowed down under the coalition regime and road development is not progressing like it did when Siddaramaiah was the chief minister.

Somashekhar said that had Siddaramaiah, who is currently the chief of the coordination committee of the coalition, been made the chief minister again, he would have changed the face of Bengaluru. “In seven months of the coalition government, not even an action plan has been formed for the development of the city,” he said. “Whether he is power or not, all Congress workers say even today he is the chief minister, there’s nothing new in that

The Congress, though, has not taken kindly to the latest outburst of support for the former chief minister. Somashekar was issued a show-cause notice by the party for his statements, and one leader said the party was considering similar disciplinary measures against others as well.

Siddaramaiah himself played down the controversy on Monday, saying he would speak to all those concerned. “Yes we will control our MLAs,” he said. “First of all, we have formed a coalition government deciding that the JD(S) should get the chief minister’s post, so there is no question of me taking over the post,” he said.

Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara however said that Somashekar was expressing his opinion.

“(Siddaramaiah) is always the best CM, who said he isn’t? (Somashekhar) has expressed his opinion. (Siddaramaiah) is our CLP leader and (did) well the last five years, nobody can dispute that,” Parameshwara said.

However, other Congress leaders have also expressed similar sentiments.

On Sunday, backward classes welfare minister MTB Nagaraj said that his heart always chanted the name of Siddaramaiah, who is the chief of the Congress legislature party. “The way Lord Hanuman’s heart kept chanting Lord Ram’s name, my heart chants the name of Siddaramaiah,” he said. Another minister, C Puttarangashetty said for him, Siddaramaiah was still the chief minister.

Former minister HM Revanna, too, said that Siddaramaiah had introduced many good programmes for the state as chief minister. “It was not a Lingayat leader who made it mandatory for government offices to have a photo of Basavanna, it was Siddaramaiah,” he said. A few days ago, MLA K Sudhakar said, “Siddaramaiah is not former but still the chief minister for us”.

Last month, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had broken down at a public meeting while claiming that Siddaramaiah was defeated by some vested interests. “He gave such a good government over five years and still the people did not support him,” he had said.

The seven-month-old Kumaraswamy government has faced multiple challenges since it came to power last May. The latest threat came earlier this month after the opposition BJP allegedly tried to lure away Congress MLAs to topple the government.

Comparisons between the current government and the previous one, where the Congress enjoyed a majority of 122 seats in the 224-member assembly, have been ever present over the past eight months. Thanks to his five-year term, Siddaramaiah became only the second chief minister complete the full term in state, since it was reorganised.

But having faced a defeat in the Chamundeshwari assembly constituency in the assembly elections in May, and only scraping through in the Badami seat, Siddaramaiah had taken a brief sabbatical in the immediate aftermath of the polls. Congress leaders had blamed Siddaramaiah for the setback the party faced in the polls.

However, since then, and especially after he was elevated to the All India Congress Committee, he has emerged as a rallying force in the Congress, with ministerial aspirants and disgruntled leaders choosing to deliberate with him and not other senior leaders.

Even after the recent Cabinet expansion in December, senior leaders had complained that Siddaramaiah’s choices had been preferred over others.

The controversy comes even as the parties are yet to formulate a seat sharing formula in the state ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Senior BJP leader Govind Karjol said it was clear that this government did not enjoy the support of its own legislators. “Of course, as an opposition we will raise questions about the functioning of the government. However, the Congress MLAs repeatedly insisting that Siddaramaiah’s government was better shows that they endorse our view that this government is not doing much work. This being the situation, in my opinion Kumaraswamy should resign, something that even Congress MLAs seem to be saying,” he said.

Political analyst Narendar Pani said the Congress seemed to be trying to project Siddaramaiah as its leader to consolidate its position for the seat-sharing discussions with the JD(S). “It looks like they want to put a united front to show that they are not dispersed to help them in the seat-sharing discussions the party will hold with former prime minister HD Deve Gowda,” he said.

First Published: Jan 28, 2019 11:48 IST