Whispers of discontent among coalition partners in the Karnataka government are doing the rounds once again. Leaders of both the Congress and JD(S) are gearing up for a break in the alliance say sources, especially since coordination committee head and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s statement in Hassan on Saturday that he would surely become the CM.
The first rumblings of a revolt came on Monday when Minister of Agriculture and Congress leader, NH Shivashankara Reddy, who is a staunch follower of Siddaramaiah, said that Kumaraswamy must be replaced by a Congress leader as the CM of Karnataka.
“The Chief Minister of the coalition government HD Kumaraswamy must be changed. Instead, Siddaramaiah must be made the Chief Minister of Karnataka,” Shivashankara Reddy told the media in Chamarajanagar.
Reacting to questions about Siddaramaiah expressing his desire to be the CM, Shivashakara Reddy backed the former CM and said that “many people in the state want to see him become the CM”.
“I don’t know in what context he (Siddaramaiah) was refering to but a lot of people want to see him become the CM and that’s why we rallied behind him during the elections. But now he is the head of the coordination committee. If the members of the committee decide to make Siddaramaiah the CM then they have my unconditional support,” he added.
Coming to Siddaramaiah’s defence N Cheluvarayaswamy, former MLA from Nagamangala and Congress leader, said that the coordination committee has the power to change the Chief Minister.
“Former CM Siddaramaiah is not alone. If anyone believes he is alone then they are being stupid. All Congress MLAs, former MLAs from the party and MPs are behind Siddaramaiah. Everyone knows that JD(S) party workers are targeting Congress workers in Mandya district and other districts too. Even though we know this, we have no choice but to keep quiet,” he said.
Rumours of a coup to bring down Kumaraswamy are doing the rounds in political circles and party insiders say that Siddaramaiah is at its helm.
“The alliance with JD(S) is not beneficial to the Congress party in any way. The only people making gains are those in Parameshwara’s (Deputy CM’s) camp. The Congress and JD(S) have the same voter base. In Chamarajanagar, Mysuru, Mandya, Kolar, Hassan, Chikkaballapura, Bengaluru Rural, Ramanagara and other southern districts, it’s always JD(S) against Congress. By assuming power, JD(S) is now able to trample the Congress’ interest in our strongholds. They want to wipe us out and this is what Siddaramaiah is worried about,” a Congress source said.
Congress insiders believe that CM Kumaraswamy’s move to waive farm loan incurred by private money lenders and even provide daily loans to farmers without interest was done to consolidate the party’s position as pro-people in case the Congress backs out of the alliance.
“If the Congress backs out of the alliance, then JD(S) will either have to ally with BJP and not get any cabinet portfolios. If the JD(S) allies with BJP, then the Congress will have the moral high ground and can attack JD(S) as a party which goes against its word. Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy will be humiliated. The other option is re-election. Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy know that it is a possibility. The complete loan waiver was done to consolidate their support,” a JD(S) source said.
Sources in the Congress say that Siddaramaiah’s planned trip to Europe in early September is a ruse and that other Congress leaders including Byrathi Basavaraj, Somashekar and a few others who are close associates of Siddaramaiah are planning to use the opportunity to stage an uprising against Kumaraswamy being the CM of Karnataka.
“This may or may not happen but there are talks of an uprising. Even Kumaraswamy knows that trouble is brewing. Ultimately, if Siddaramaiah is able to convince the high command that it is in the interest of the party, then it may happen,” the Congress source said.
Meanwhile, BJP sources say that the party is trying to lure several Congress and JD(S) leaders into its fold in a situation where the alliance would break. A Congress leader, however, said that the grand old party is also in talks with a few BJP MLAs with the intent to bring them into the party.
“Yes, the BJP is trying to poach Congress leaders but our party representatives are also in talks with BJP leaders. All the parties are gearing up for damage control. There are talks of leaders tabling the issue of bringing Kumaraswamy down as the CM during the coordination committee meeting. Siddaramaiah is consolidating support already. Even the Kaginele seer Niranjananda Puri Swami on Monday offered support for Siddaramaiah,” the Congress leader said.
On Monday, Niranjananda Puri Swami, while addressing a gathering at Ballari, praised Siddaramaiah’s achievements during his tenure as the CM.
“When Siddaramaiah was the Chief Minister, he had introduced several developmental works. He brought value to the post of CM,” the seer said.
Speaking to TNM, a JD(S) leader said that the party had already anticipated dissent in the alliance and had therefore made Kuruba strongman, AH Vishwanath as the party’s state president.
“Only Vishwanath can crush Siddaramaiah. He (Siddaramaiah) is scared that he will be wiped out from politics and is desperately trying to regain control,” the source said.