BJP’s victorious sweep in Uttar Pradesh after the recent Assembly Elections has raised the expectations for the states going to polls next year. Karnataka is one among them. Will the CM Siddaramaiah keep Karnataka for Congress? The pressure is immense
Congress in Karnataka is sure going through some tensed meetings now. While overall, the Congress attracted Punjab, Goa and Manipur into its fold this elections, an important bastion like Uttar Pradesh was won over by the BJP. Even places like Amethi and Rae Bareilly, the Congress strongholds sided with the BJP rubbing in the defeat a bit more deeply. With 2018 fast approaching and combined with the poor performance of the Congress in the UP elections, the pressure is mounting for Siddaramaiah and party in the state.
“I think, the BJP is under illusion. After indulging in corruption and having been imprisoned and losing Chief Minister's post, such a person making such comments is untenable... he does not have any moral right to utter such words," CM Siddaramaiah had replied to BSY’s quip that “ it looks like Siddaramaiah will ensure that he will be the last Congress Chief Minister in the state.” Will Yeddyurappa’s line ring true? Siddaramaiah will try his level best to make that not happen. Now the Congress in Karnataka is in a dangerous position as it is the lone major state in India with Congress in power.
Not helping matters is the recent Steel Flyover pay-off debacle.
Not helping matters is the recent Steel Flyover pay-off debacle. Apart from that the party also had a string of scandals like the MK Ganapathi suicide which saw minister KJ George’s role being questioned, Tanveer Sait and the WhatsApp porn drama, the HY Meti's sex scandal and I-T raids on senior government officials during demonetisation and the list goes on. While blaming the BJP for their embarrassment and scandals, the Congress government has not been quiet and scam-free itself.
The Steel Flyover is an issue which is likely to raked up reportedly by the Opposition. Going against popular opinion, Siddaramaiah had sanctioned the Rs 1,800-crore project. A few months later allegations of crores of money received as kickback in connection with the project, allegedly mentioned in diary entries of Congress MLC Govindaraju proved to be bit too problematic of the Sidda government. BJP President B S Yeddyurappa had earlier alleged that Siddaramaiah, had “benefited from the project in the form of commissions and kickbacks.”
Apart from this Karnataka is battling problems of acute drought, low agricultural production, extreme water shortage, growing incidents of attack against women and people from other states and more. With urban infrastructure being a thorn in his foot, Siddaramaiah has to concentrate on making up for these lapses while stringing along a party, scared and tensed after seeing the Saffron wave in the North. To top it all, how much the Congress High Command will be able to help the Karnataka CM is debatable after the drubbing in the North.
Siddaramaiah has to concentrate on making up for these lapses while stringing along a party, scared and tensed after seeing the Saffron wave in the North.
Siddaramaiah does not have to fear Yeddyurappa becoming chief minister again, because we can expect BJP to have learnt its lesson with the iron ore mining scam which ensured its ouster from the state. As Amit Shah’s formulas in the UP have proven successful, only time will tell whether BJP will bring in its kingmaker to revive BJP’s fortunes.
Once he became CM, there was this growing feeling that Siddaramaiah might just be the Congress’s strong man in the state. His method of administration and social welfare schemes have endeared to the public. The CM is already known to have acted upon a few flagship schemes and is actively seeking the support of the Ahinda community. He also plans to release the controversial caste census report which may turn the tables in his favour. Siddaramaiah is from the kuruba community —the third largest caste in the state, after the lingayats and vokkaligas.
In Uttar Pradesh the caste equations were played down by the BJP who insisted their mandate was development and honest work alone. What will their strategy be in a caste-conscious Karnataka is difficult to gauge. Taking the caste equation of Karnataka politics is a difficult attempt, but if BJP manages to do that then Congress will have a lot of explaining to do. The change will only happen if the Karnataka people are willing to forgive BJP of the past.
The image of BJP in Karnataka is not very favourable though and the party will have to really work on their strategy if they have to defeat Siddaramaiah. Even the JD (S), another competitor for the CM seat is stuck by its own share of controversies to muster enough to challenge the Congress. Differences within the party have not sent across message of stability or conviction.
So now it falls to Siddaramaiah to make sure 2018 does not make BJP’s mandate of a Congress-Mukt Bharat a truth. He still enjoys the favour of these communities so things might not be as bleak as being perceived.