BENGALURU/MANGALURU: A show of solidarity by a group of Congress leaders, including 7 MLAs and two ministers, with former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday even after the political storm raised by the “Siddu tapes”, has rattled the Congress high command. Sensing the potential trouble ahead, AICC general secretary in-charge of party affairs in Karnataka K C Venugopal is arriving in Bengaluru on Thursday to meet Siddaramaiah and resolve the issue.
Even as the Congress leadership is on a damage control mode after the videotapes conveying Siddaramaiah’s displeasure over Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s plan to present a fresh budget and also expressing doubts about the survival of the coalition government beyond the next Lok Sabha election caused ripples, a group of Congress MLAs called on him at Shanthivana, Nature Cure Centre, near Dharmasthala. The group held a closed-door meeting with him and discussed the developments within the coalition.
The group comprised ministers Ramesh Jarkiholi and Shivananda Patil, ex-minister H Anjaneya, MLAs Mahesh Kamatalli, Nagendra and MP B V Naik.
While Jarkiholi called it a ‘courtesy call’, Basavakalyan MLA Narayan Rao’s statement added grist to the brewing discontent in the Siddaramaiah camp. He said: “Will the coalition government survive if it neglects Siddaramaiah? It is because of him that the coalition government has come into existence. He is our leader.”
Shivananda Patil said, “Siddaramaiah is Congress’s one and only leader and it is because of him that the party managed to win 80 seats.” However, he too maintained that it was a courtesy visit. The message was loud and clear: Though Kumaraswamy is the CM and G Parameshwara the DyCM, it is Siddaramaiah who is their leader. Any attempts to marginalise him or insult him would not be taken lightly.
Over 30 Congress MLAs ready to declare their loyalty to Siddaramaiah
According to sources, the group shared its concerns with Siddaramaiah about JD(S) gaining the upper hand in the coalition government in the sharing of portfolios and transfer of officials.
About 20 Congress MLAs have visited Siddaramaiah at Shanthivana in the last one week and the political activities there have turned it the epicentre of state politics. The ripples have been felt in Delhi with JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda seeking Venugopal’s intervention to “end the irritants from Siddaramaiah.” Gowda was in Delhi on Wednesday. He expressed the confidence that the “Siddu tapes” would not be allowed to affect the Kumaraswamy government.
The meeting of the MLAs with Siddaramaiah is being seen as a show of strength. Many Congress MLAs view the “soft approach” of the party high command with its sights on the 2019 LS polls would prove counterproductive. More than 30 Congress MLAs are ready to declare their loyalty to Siddaramaiah.
But Siddaramaiah’s moves have not gone down well with the party high command as it is facing heat from party MPs too, as the pressure is mounting from them to “iron out the differences within the coalition” to create a positive public opinion about the government ahead of the next Lok Sahha polls.
The MPs apprehend a rout for Congress in the LS polls if squabbles continue.Speaking to TNIE, former Congress MP Rahman Khan was candid in conveying his displeasure. “This coalition came into existence with Siddaramaiah’s full support. It is his responsibility to ensure that it works for the welfare of the party as well as himself. Leaders should keep their egos aside and work together to fulfil promises made to the people.
It is high time the high command stepped in and took measures to ensure that any negative things don’t happen.We have to show that we can work with regional parties to build a united front for 2019. I am sure even Siddaramaiah doesn’t approve of MLAs visiting him at a place where he is getting treatment. They could have met him in Bengaluru.”
The ominous signs have forced the party high command to swing into action. Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah is set to be discharged from the Nature Cure Centre on Thursday and he is expected to arrive in Bengaluru later in the evening.“Venugopal is arriving in Bengaluru on Thursday to take up the issue directly with Siddaramaiah. Even Mallikarjun Kharge will speak to Siddaramaiah,” a Congress functionary told TNIE.
Jayachandra returns without meeting ex-CM
Former minister T B Jayachandra who also visited Shanthivana had to return without meeting Siddaramaiah. Sources said the ex-CM was not keen to meet him as he went late. Speaking to reporters, Jayachandra said Siddaramaiah is his leader and he is kept in the loop while taking all decisions.