- The ongoing war of words between the 'outsider' CM Siddaramaiah and the angry old guard of the Congress is heating up rapidly
- In a recent media interaction, Siddaramaiah declared that, despite them claiming so, no one from Karnataka had helped him join the Congress
- Several members of the old guard spoke to Asianet Newsable and angrily refuted this claim of the CM, stating that power had 'gone to his head'
It's been eleven years since Siddaramaiah defected from the JD(S) to the Congress, evoking strong criticism and heartburn among senior leaders in the state unit of the grand old party.
Considered an outsider, he was sidelined for several years by the old timers. But eventually, Siddaramaiah ensured that he got his due from the party, rising all the way to the top to become the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Today, as he is vying for a second term and the Congress will be facing the 2018 Assembly polls under his leadership.
Interestingly, it is at this juncture that Siddaramaiah decided "to set the record straight", by claiming that no Congress leader from Karnataka helped him join the party. Rather, he said, it was senior party leader Ahmed Patel who did so.
This was a direct attack on senior leaders like SM Krishna and AH Vishwanath, who have claimed they helped Siddaramaiah join the Congress. While Krishna has already exited the party, Vishwanath is on his way out.
Siddaramaiah's recent statement has definitely not gone down well with senior leaders across party factions, who have heatedly countered the claim. Recounting past developments, they told Asianet Newsable that many leaders played an important role in bringing Siddaramaiah to the Congress.
Former railway minister CK Jaffer Sharief, one of the senior-most members of the Congress, said that it was "ridiculous" that Siddaramaiah was making such claims, and added that would one day he would "pay" for it.
"What is Siddaramaiah saying? This shows how headstrong he has become. His claims are false. He is vying hard to become the chief minister for the second term, and power has gone to his head. God will punish him for this. He may be uttering those words - but in his heart, he knows the truth. God is there - He knows. If he continues with this charade, we will send him home," said an infuriated Sharief.
The veteran Congressman went on to add that the recent Nanjangud and Gundlupet by poll results "had gone to Siddaramaiah's head", and that he was riding high on the victory, saying things without paying heed to the consequences.
Sharief said that it was Kuruba leaders HM Revanna and H Vishwanath who had worked hard at getting Siddaramaiah into the Congress, while leaders like himself and Krishna had facilitated his entry.
"It's a well-known fact that I am very close to the Gandhi family. Even to this day, Sonia Gandhi meets with me to learn about the party affairs in the state. My association with Ahmed Patel is also very good. He doesn't take any decisions with regard to Karnataka, without consulting me. Also, when the trouble started brewing in the JD(S), Siddaramaiah went and met Krishna in Mumbai, when the latter was serving there as the Maharashtra governor and sought his help. Krishna himself has said so," added Sharief.
Vishwanath, one of the strongest critics of Siddaramaiah, too said that the latter couldn't have got into the Congress without the help of the state leaders.
"I only brought him to Congress with the help of Krishna. In fact, we struggled very hard to get him into the party fold, after he was thrown out by the JD(S). Today, it's a well-established fact that all those who struggled to bring him to the forefront have been kept out or neglected."
BJP leader V Srinivas Prasad, who had been with the Congress for over 25 years, said that initially Patel wasn't even inclined on Siddaramaiah joining Congress.
"Though I was with the JD(S) then, I know for a fact that leaders like RL Jalappa, HM Revanna, BL Shankar and Krishna lobbied hard to get him into the party. It was Oscar Fernandes who finally convinced Sonia Gandhi about him. However, after his induction, he was cold shouldered by party leaders for several years. It was only in 2009 that the party started taking him seriously - Digvijay Singh was instrumental in doing so. It's wrong of Siddaramaiah to be uttering these lies," added Prasad.
CM Ibrahim, deputy chairman of State Planning Commission, despite his differences with the Chief Minister, was however quick to defend him. "Siddaramaiah was directly contacted by Patel after he quit the JD(S). Sonia Gandhi wanted to renew Congress and she knew that seven to eight leaders were willing to follow him from the JD(S). The Congress, which was asking leaders of other parties to join it, knew that we would bring in the strength," he said, adding that Siddaramaiah hadn't sidelined the party old timers, but it was the high command that had lost confidence in their leadership.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:39 PM IST