They are the Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav of Karnataka with one huge difference – both belong to the Congress party which is in decline in a state where once they were kings.
Not a day passes without the two men - Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his bugbear the head of the Congress in Karnataka Dr. G Parameshwara – being in news as the latter dreams of becoming Deputy Chief Minister, and the former will never allow it.
Just like the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav is an OBC and his rival, the former Chief Minister Mayawati is a Dalit, in Karnataka, so are Siddaramaiah (OBC) and Parameshwara (Dalit). Caste matters as never before in India's Silicon valley.
Wake up and smell the coffee – the internecine fights between the two are not about to end and with the high command in Delhi fighting fires on another planet, the Karnataka comedy show, will, for now, be relentless.
Somewhere the math has been done – by all accounts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to do better in 2018, compared to its dismal performance in 2013.
Small wonder then that Parameshwara is using the Dalit card to get himself perched as deputy chief minister and his chances are as high as a snowball in hell. The last thing Siddaramaiah wants is grass growing under his feet. The only compromise that Siddaramaiah is willing to strike is a senior cabinet berth for his nemesis.
But new things are also happening. Siddaramaiah has managed to get on the wrong side of everyone if not by his abrasive manner than by his quick leg work and political math.
Was it always like this in Karnataka, which for years has got the reputation of being one of India’s most corrupt states? The caste divide in the state influences the resources divide – the Lingayats form the largest group, followed by the Vokkaligas and then the Kurubas to which Siddaramaiah belongs.
Once upon a time there lived a man called Gopal Gowda, who was a contemporary of Ramnath Lohia, the illustrious Socialite. Among his followers were S.M. Krishna, J.H. Patil, Aziz Seth, to name a few and the indomitable George Fernandes. Siddaramaiah was also one among them and for years was the blue-eyed boy of the firebrand socialist Georges Fernandes, both atheists.
When the Janata Party split, Siddaramaiah jumped ship with Deve Gowda to head the state unit of the Janata Dal (Secular), on the understanding that after establishing himself in Delhi as the Prime Minister, Gowda would give Siddaramiah his due as heir apparent. Alas that did not happen and Gowda brought his son H.H. Kumaraswamy to replace him.
Miffed – yes miffed – Siddaramaiah floated a platform called AHINDA to speak to the aspirations of the backward communities in Karnataka and managed to out up a decent show. Sensing trouble, the Congress high command sent him feelers to join the Congress which he readily did.
Other aspirants to the Chief Minister's job in the Congress now found themselves stuck between a rock and hard place and that is where they are at present. Though Congress leaders do not like Siddaramaiah, he was their best bet to securing a victory.
Siddaramaiah has ruffled quite a few feathers by not doling out posts to partymen and has also managed to antagonize the Vokkaligas and Lingayats by favouring states schemes for people from his Kuruba caste.
Somewhere in all, former Prime Minister Deve Gowda is stoking the fires hoping that a divided Congress will look to him as a king maker.
Karnataka watchers say nothing much is going to happen before the assembly elections. The Congress high command will have to do a risk benefit analysis between installing Parameshwara as deputy Chief Minister or keep the embers burning till the Assembly elections.
It is high time the Congress and Siddharamaiah end the cat and mouse game which is called the ‘Deputy CM debate.’ It is ugly, time-consuming and prevents others from getting on with the business of running the state.