Business Standard

The loneliness of Karnatakas CM candidates


ANI Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India]
The two front runners for the post of Chief minister of Karnataka state, Siddaramaiah of the Congress Party and B.S. Yeddyurappa of the BJP are repeatedly assuring their voters that they will head the government if their respective party is elected to power, but the fact is that both are unsure of the support of their own party colleagues in the matter.
Siddaramaiah's doesn't just need to fight the BJP; he has people within the party who have been openly dissenting with his nomination as the CM candidate. Though he is the sitting chief minister of the only large Congress ruling state in the country, his party colleagues who are far senior to him, feel that he should have made way to someone else this time, like say Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and Dalit leader Mallikarjun Kharge or the very popular and influential D.K. Shivakumar.
But Siddaramaiah had Rahul Gandhi's ear, and convinced him that he would deliver victory. Therefore the sharp and shrewd Kuruba caste leader had a complete free run in selection of candidates. Winnability and caste affiliations were the deciding factors in allotting tickets. The result is that others in the party were piqued, which is evident in their body language when sharing the stage with Siddaramaiah. When the CM speaks they chatter amongst each other or look disinterestedly at the audience, even glowering when slogans are raised praising Siddaramaiah. Actually, this isn't in the tradition of the Congress party. When a Gandhi is on stage, slogans are only for RG. But its different in Karnataka where regionalism off late has become important for its people. The crowd whistles and laughs out loud at all the playing to the gallery that Siddaramaiah does. RG is not getting the same response. People are polite, they smile at him, get selfies taken with him but voluble support is only for Siddaramaiah.
But crowds and promises need not always translate into votes. He has a tough two weeks ahead of him. In both the constituencies that he is contesting from, Chamundeshwari and Badami, his rivals are strong and have vowed to defeat him at any cost. There are many in the Congress who whisper that some big guns in the Congress would relish the prospect of a Congress win minus Siddaramaiah. If Siddaramaiah loses in both his constituencies then he can hardly make a claim to be CM. In the event of a hung assembly, the Congress could approach the Janata Dal (S) for support to form an anti-BJP coalition. The JDS could consider it only if it is a minus Siddaramaiah formula. The JDS's allergy to the current CM is quite evident. He was expelled from the JDS and went on to join the Congress party. At almost every rally Siddaramaiah ridicules the secular credentials of the JDS, calling it the BJP's B team.
But the A team of the BJP is not exactly sure of the alleged B team. Deve Gowda is a factor that can swing either way. In the A team, it is Mr. A who has parked himself in the state and decided on ticket distribution. Amit Shah in his typical style has made it a do-or-die battle for his team. Chief Minister candidate Yeddyurappa has been relegated to playing second fiddle. He has been on a massive sulk for weeks on end, as his list of candidates found no space during ticket distribution and the straw that broke the camel's back was when his son was denied the ticket from Varuna constituency. Yeddyurappa's son B.Y. Raghavendra may find a place in the hopefuls for 2019 Lok Sabha polls, at least that is what it seems is the carrot held to him. There were very strong rumours that Yeddyurappa was grooming his son to take over from him, half way through his tenure of Chief Ministership citing ill health. But that wasn't to be. Not just that, now it appears that Yeddyurappa may not be sharing stage with PM Modi in all the rallies that is on the itinerary. The CM candidate is barely interacting with his party colleagues. He doesn't take calls of spokespersons or party leaders; his staff is almost as miffed as their boss.
The Lingayat leader will carry the vote of the largest voting bloc in the state it seems but may not carry the confidence of his own party. Articles have started appearing in the regional press that there is talk in the BJP that they might ditch Yeddyurappa if he fails to enthuse voters. In all likelihood Modi will galvanize the public more than the party's CM candidate, who seems listless and confused at most rallies. He is no match for Siddaramaiah when it comes to punch filled speeches, but he has the benefit of belonging to the largest caste grouping in the state and the blessings of a number of Lingayat seers.
With no wave visible till two weeks before polling day, it seems like the chief minister candidates will have to cajole dissenters or crush internal dissonances in the party to appear strong and capable of leading their party. Karnataka goes to polls on 12th May 2018 in all 224 constituencies simultaneously. Results will be declared on 15th May.By Smita Prakash

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Apr 29 2018 | 5:18 PM IST

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