BANGALORE: A Congress stalwart has initiated secret talks, with the assent of the high command, to get JD(S) heavyweight H D Kumaraswamy to join the party. Sources who revealed the sensational development to Express said the senior leader has already held four rounds of talks with Kumaraswamy.
Kumaraswamy has sought time till December to decide on the invitation. “The identity of the Congress stalwart will be known once Kumaraswamy agrees to join us,” a leader privy to the talks told Express.
The Congress elder approached Kumaraswamy soon after the Lok Sabha elections. In fact, the source said, he even helped Kumaraswamy garner some votes in the Lok Sabha polls. However, the JD(S) lost the seat to Veerappa Moily of the Congress.
“Kumaraswamy managed to get a lead in one of the Assembly constituencies thanks to the support of his Congress patron,” the source revealed.
For the canny Congress leader, the intention is to curb Siddaramaiah’s further rise, but for Kumaraswamy, it comes as an opportunity to move out of the shadow of his father, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.
Soon after the talks, Kumaraswamy went into a huddle with legislators close to him. He took party legislators to Sri Lanka to discreetly elicit their views about the negotiations, without Deve Gowda looking over their shoulder.
Several of the party’s 40 legislators are not averse to hitching their fortunes to the bandwagon of the BJP or the Congress. “We believe the JD(S) has no future, with Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy pulling in opposite directions,” a legislator told Express.
Suspecting something was afoot, Gowda made his wife Channamma call Kumaraswamy when he was Sri Lanka. She admonished Kumaraswamy for taking the legislators to Sri Lanka, and warned him not to take any decisions that might hurt his father.
The idea of roping in Kumaraswamy is based on the British maxim, “No friends, no enemies, only interests.”
The Congress elder feels Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is growing stronger by the day and his influence on the party and the government needs to be curbed.
“Right now, the Congress is thriving on the Ahinda vote bank and Siddaramaiah’s charisma. There is no mass leader who can take on the CM,” a source said. Ahinda is an acronym for alpasankhyaata, hindulida varga, and Dalita, or minorities, backward classes, and Dalit.
Kumaraswamy can step in as a strong Vokkaliga leader in the void created by former foreign minister S M Krishna’s decision not to get involved in day-to-day politics.
Congress legislators aware of the confabulations met Kumaraswamy and asked him to make up his mind quickly, the source said. Deve Gowda is mending fences with Siddaramaiah. Siddaramaiah, who broke away from Gowda a decade ago, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with him in Delhi during an all-party meeting on the Cauvery dispute in June.
Sources said the two leaders met again in Bangalore to discuss Cauvery strategy.
On instructions from Siddaramaiah, a senior official extended an invitation to Gowda, which he accepted. The two leaders met at a common friend’s house and discussed for over three hours the state’s approach in the Supreme Court. The case is coming up for hearing on July 15.
The new-found warmth between Gowda and the CM is not limited to discussing legal strategy.
Kumaraswamy had entered into a pact with the BJP to prevent the Congress from getting the presiding officer’s position in the Council. In return, the JD(S) was to get the deputy chairperson’s post. Gowda had now stepped in and stopped the deal from going through, a source said. No party in the 75-member Council enjoy a clear majority. The Congress has to wait till 2016 to get a majority on its own. Sources said Gowda, who favours the Congress, is set to block understanding with the BJP.
But analysts say it will be tough for Kumaraswamy to break away from his family and the JD(S).