Why Siddaramaiah is the Rahul Gandhi of Karnataka

Sandeep Balakrishna
Sandeep BalakrishnaMay 31, 2016 | 10:46

Why Siddaramaiah is the Rahul Gandhi of Karnataka

His regime has been a directionless mix of disasters

In the foreseeable future till the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections, there seems to be little doubt that the incumbent chief minister, Siddaramaiah will complete his term no matter the speculation about his replacement.

Such speculations and even open calls for his removal from his own party people have surfaced time and again since mid-2014. Every single time, Siddaramaiah has bested them and will continue to do so.


In many ways, Siddaramiah has proven to be the "Bhasmasura touch" Rahul Gandhi of Karnataka in the sense of a catch-22 for the Congress: if the party lets go of him, it risks losing the government; if it holds on to him, internal squabbles will intensify, and it stares at certain defeat in 2018.

To be sure, the perception here in Karnataka that Siddaramaiah is the worst ever chief minister is not far from the truth.

If one were to describe his regime so far in a line, it would be this: a directionless mix of disastrous far Left economic policies, wanton communal and caste divisiveness, unrestrained anti-Hinduism, sclerotic governance, rampant corruption, and near lawlessness.

A re-energised BJP under the leadership of former CM BS Yeddyurappa is already in campaign mode.

The (partial) laundry list of Siddaramaiah’s "achievements" makes for painful reading: from creating an NAC-style kitchen cabinet comprising Communist writers and intellectuals to trying to forcibly takeover Hindu temples, mutts and other institutions to grossly mismanaging the city of Bangalore to shocking episodes like the suspicious suicide of IAS officer DK Ravi to trying to get the terror-suspect Madani released to wearing the Rs 70-Lakh Hublot watch, we can apply Indira Gandhi’s famous "give us a government that works!" to Siddaramaiah’s regime.


Even worse, his government doesn’t seem to have learned anything. His most recent move to "modernise" the age-old, world-renowned pilgrimage centre, Chamundi Hills invited a severe backlash from Mysoreans who took out a massive protest march led by dignitaries including Padmashri Dr SL Bhyrappa and the scion of the Mysore royal family, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar.

Equally, his government didn’t emerge in shining colours after it was revealed that people close to a minister in his cabinet were behind the pre-university Chemistry question paper leak.

If these weren’t enough, Siddaramaiah continues to be battered on the political front chiefly in the Congress "insider-outsider" arena. As is well-known, he’s reviled by most, if not all, of the veteran Karnataka Congress leaders: former chief minister SM Krishna, Mallikarjun Kharge, G Parameshwar, Janardhan Poojary, BK Hariprasad,and DK Shivakumar to name a prominent few.

This report by journalist DP Satish lends credence to the argument that this is perhaps Siddaramaiah’s own doing in a bid to maintain a vice-like grip on power since 2013 when:

He realised that being an "outsider" in Congress is much more beneficial to him than trying to become an "insider". In the last three years, he deftly used the "outsider" card to save his chair whenever there was a demand for his ouster. He has cleverly divided the MLAs and his ministers into two unofficial groups - original Congress and outsiders. He makes sure that these two groups keep fighting with each other.


Indeed, this fighting among other factors is the key reason why there’s a Congress government in Karnataka which doesn’t deliver governance. Indeed, his grip has only strengthened with time each time the "original" Congress members have rallied against him. A paradox lies herein.

The only calling card of the "original" Congress continues to be its loyalty to the dynasty. Unencumbered by any any such baggage, Siddaramaiah has shrewdly used that calling card against them.

It’s a different matter that the Congress has steadily lost local and by-elections since he took over. In several of these polls, the anti-Siddaramaiah camp has openly acted against the party.

But most importantly, perhaps Siddaramaiah realised that the diktat of the high command wasn’t really important post the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and more so after the Congress lost successive polls in important states like Haryana, Maharashtra, and now, Assam.

As D P Satish’s report puts it bluntly, "He believes that a weak high command cannot remove him even if it wants to." Or as this Firstpost analysis echoes, "some partymen are referring to it as 'low command'."

However this maybe, the writing is clear: the Congress now faces the real prospect of electoral annihilation in the 2018 polls which will be fuelled in equal measure by internal rebellion, which cost the Congress heavily, most recently in Assam. Things are too far gone for either Siddaramaiah, or the party to climb out of this self-created mess.

To add to this long list of woes, a re-energised BJP under the leadership of former CM BS Yeddyurappa is already in campaign mode. With Amit Shah giving him a free hand, Yeddyurappa is gearing for a statewide tour with "a mission in Karnataka to realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a Congress-free India." Modi’s rally on May 30 in the business and educational district of Davanagere doesn’t really cheer the Congress.

Several graphics circulating on social media also hint to exactly what state the Congress has been reduced to. Two of these, relevant in this context, are captioned thus:

 1. You can drive from Kupwara, the northernmost city to Kanyakumari, the southernmost city without passing through any Congress-ruled state.

 2. You can drive from Narayan Sarovar, the westernmost town to Kibithoo, the easternmost town without passing through any Congress-ruled state.

More significantly, for the first time, the Congress hasn’t sent any MP — Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha — from Tamil Nadu.

There’s also a very slim chance that the Congress will make any headway in the 2017 UP elections. Whatever be Prashant Kishor’s expertise, there’s simply no way he can either persuade or market a Rahul Gandhi to the UP voters as their next chief minister.

And so, after the recent four-state electoral battering that the Congress received, Karnataka, the last large state of significance seems well on its way of slipping out of the Congress’ hands.

In the interim, there’s also the prospect of damaging outcomes in the National Herald and Augusta Westland cases where the dynasty is concerned. And if and when Karnataka slips away, there’s every possibility that the Congress will implode as a political party.

A study of human nature’s wants, needs and desires informs us plausibly that whatever is left of the high command’s authority will completely ebb because its state-level leaders will face an existential threat to their own political futures. Which might cause their eventual exodus to other parties.

Last updated: May 15, 2018 | 19:01
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