Siddaramaiah fumes as Karnataka rebel MLA says “he was the one behind us”
A rebel legislator in Karnataka stoked a controversy on Thursday when he indicated that former chief minister Siddaramaiah was responsible for the collapse of the coalition government, prompting the former chief minister leader to angrily reject the accusation, even as the clamour against him appeared to grow through a series of suggestions by leaders from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular).
The allegation by rebel MLA Shivaram Hebbar came after weeks of speculation that sections of the two former coalition partners were unhappy with Siddaramaiah’s role in quelling the rebellion that ultimately toppled the 14-month government.
At a press conference in Bengaluru, Hebbar -- one of 15 rebel lawmakers who resigned their position -- claimed that Siddaramaiah was “the one who was behind us”.
Hebbar went on to add that the former chief minister had asked them to stay away from the party and was now blaming them because the government had fallen. “We are all together and we will take a decision together. We are not joining the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party],” he said.
This angered Siddaramaiah, who has repeatedly stressed that he was not involved in the collapse of the government. Taking to twitter, the former chief minister said there were malafide intentions behind these claims.
“This is nothing but a false allegation with malafide intension. I will give them a befitting reply if they repeat the same in front of me,” Siddaramaiah tweeted. He accused the rebel MLAs of trying to shift the blame on to him.
This is not the first time Siddaramaiah has faced the heat.
The senior leader, who shifted to the Congress from the JD(S) in 2006, is known to share a frosty relationship with the regional party. In the past, JD(S) patriarch and former prime minister, HD Deve Gowda, had said that the party was ready to offer the chief minister’s position to the Congress but didn’t want Siddaramaiah in the post. On Thursday, he told NDTV: “I thought Kharge or even Parameshwara or Muniyappa of the Congress could be Chief Minister. I told them about Kumaraswamy’s health background, but Ghulam Nabi Azad said this was Sonia Gandhi’s decision that Kumaraswamy should be chief minister.”
Rahul Gandhi’s tweet on Tuesday blaming “vested interests, both within and outside,” for the state government’s collapse also gave a handle to Siddaramaiah’s detractors.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Karnatakam, KC Venugopal, is likely to brief Gandhi, who returned from abroad on Thursday, on the situation in Karnataka.
Siddaramaiah became chief minister after the Congress gained a majority in the 2013 assembly elections. His tenure was marked by expanded focus towards backward communities, welfare schemes such as free rice, subsidised milk and cheap government-run canteens, and towards the end of his term, a bid to create a separate faith for the dominant Lingayat community.
The Congress has to decide whether to continue its coalition with the JD(S). In his meetings with the central leaders, Congress troubleshooter DK Shivakumar had said that disgruntled party legislators did not want Kumaraswamy as the chief minister.
They had argued that the Congress had not gained much due to its alliance with the JD(S). The disgruntled leaders had suggested the Congress should either withdraw from the alliance or force the JD(S) to change the chief minister but the central party leadership had ruled out any such move.