Voices Friday, June 06, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute| May 27, 2014| 2.40 pm IST (Comment) Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s refusal to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony and the appointment of Sadananda Gowda as Union Railway Minister has led to critical comments about Karnataka. “When was the last time New Delhi saw a tall leader from Karnataka,” is the question doing the rounds prompted by Siddaramaiah’s snub. Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Jayalalitha Jayaram (Tamil Nadu) and Naveen Patnaik (Orissa) were among prominent leaders who skipped the event, but all three have a standing in their states and have performed well in the Lok Sabha election. That is not Siddaramaiah’s case and whatever message he tried to send by avoiding the ceremony has boomeranged on him and the Congress Party he heads in the state. For a state that will need the centre's assistance in many matters, especially on contentious issues like sharing of Cauvery water, it is puzzling why the CM would not want to have good relations with a central government that is sure to stay for the next five years. Siddaramiah's own standing is likely to be challenged soon. Rumours are now rife that factions within the Congress Party in the state are keen to pull the Chief Minister down as he is not considered close to the “High Command” in New Delhi. Perhaps it would make more political sense for the Karnataka Chief Minister to forge ties with the centre, bring in some goodies to Karnataka and score many brownie points amongst the people and even his own party. Infighting between political parties is endemic in the state where there are more factions and factotums than leaders. Part of this is due to the acute focus on Bangalore, a city of migrants, as the hub of all activities. The Congress and BJP's tale in Karnataka is now almost the same. Too many leaders, but not one tall leader. Yeddyurappa who at one time thought he was more powerful than his party was brought down by his own party men and corruption charges. While it is no secret that B.S. Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar are not the best of friends, they agreed to sink their differences – at least temporarily – and pulled in the direction of Narendra Modi. The discord between leaders like Eshwarappa, Yeddyurappa, Ananth Kumar and others has significantly affected the party's base in the state.The BJP put up a better show in 2014 than assembly elections in 2013. But the 2014 mandate was for Narendra Modi and the leaders in Karnataka should be under no illusion that their popularity charts are soaring. In Congress, it is a perennial fight between the factions, even leading to some defeats this election.The Congress party which has been in power in the state for all except one BJP term had to fall back on the octogenarian S.M. Krishna to seek votes which didn't do the trick. Neither did Rahul Gandhi’s trips to the city seeking votes for star candidates like Nandan Nilekani. So while Siddaramaiah can work on keeping the backbiters off, the BJP leaders in the state may as well as spend some time in the next few months and years strengthening the party.

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