Two Cong leaders fight it out as the party seeks power in Karnataka

Polls from now on will be won by state leaders,of course with the blessings of the High Command.

Written by E P Unny | Hanur,chamarajnagar | Published: April 30, 2013 12:57:42 am

“On May 8,we’ll be looking at the very least 130 seats.” A beaming Siddaramaiah,the chief ministerial face of the Congress at least on his home turf,the Mysore belt,has no doubt that the party will govern on its own and more,“In the coming Lok Sabha Polls we’ll deliver a minimum 20 out of 28 MPs.”

“Despite all that’s happening to the UPA in Delhi?”

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“Never mind Delhi. Look at the turnout! See the enthusiasm! On a Sunday at high noon in this sweltering heat…” He points towards the surging crowd that tries to trot up and catch up with the SUV that is ferrying him back to the helipad. “Voters go by local factors.”

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This is as uneuphemistic as anyone can get in the grand old party. The message is clear. Elections from now on will be won by state leaders,of course for and with the blessings of the High Command. (Soniaji and Rahulji mentioned once at the end of the speech. The PM not at all.) The unsaid part is if you project the right CM or at least get a bit less vague on the team head as the polling date draws close,voters might connect better.

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However,there was no early sign of any connect. The crowd waited patiently as earlier speakers including the local MP,Dhruva Kumar,had their take on the socially divisive saffron outfits,the BJP and Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party. For a good hour before he got up to speak,Sidharamaiah sat visibly engrossed in a Kannada newspaper. He hardly made any eye contact with the audience. When he finally got up to speak,his sole plank was the BJP’s corruption. In a speech dotted with numbers,astronomical enough to give the CAG a complex but a risky proposition at a poll meet,he held the crowd.

Born into the backward Kuruba community (once shepherds),Siddaramaiah grew up in the pastoral stretches where Mysore’s princes stopped to hunt. A local,he must surely have that extra clout in these parts. True,admits an admirer,but who is quick to come up with a perspective on the Hanur assembly seat. This is tabletop Karnataka with every caste,religious and economic group adequately represented. So what you see here is only a reflection of his leader’s statewide popularity.

Fine,but how does he figure within his own party? He has a political baggage that could be used against him. Only seven years old in the Congress,he was finance minister and deputy CM as legislator of Janata Dal (Secular),an outfit he dismisses today as “appa pullai party” (father & sons party).

Interestingly,in Hanur itself,he was campaigning against Parimala Nagappa,the widow of an erstwhile colleague of his in Deve Gowda’s ministry. Nagappa was abducted by Veerappan and killed in captivity. Parimala was compensated with a party ticket in the next assembly poll. The good lady squandered the sentiment serially. Switched from Gowda to Mayawati to BJP to Yeddyurappa and finally back to JD(S). Making it a lot easier for Siddaramaiah to campaign in Hanur. This is the ease and supreme confidence that await reward on May 8.

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Bangalore: He may appear to have been sidelined,his loyalists may have been denied tickets,but former union minister S M Krishna has not given up the fight yet,and does not seem to have ruled himself out of the chief ministerial race in Karnataka either. The former chief minister may have shown his displeasure by not campaigning in his Mandya stronghold,where the party denied a ticket to a nominee he wanted and instead fielded actor-turned-politician and two-term loser M H Ambreesh,but he is now back on the campaign trail.    

In an interview to The Indian Express on Monday,he dismissed any suggestions about being unhappy with his role — or the absence of one — in party affairs in the state. Attribute it to a flurry of calls from New Delhi following reports about his being sulky or to his eternal optimism,but the former chief minister responds to suggestions about him taking over the reins of the state: “Let’s first reach the magic figure. We are struggling to reach the magic figure… I am of the view that the Congress will get a majority. There are set procedures in the Congress to elect its leader.” Asked if he,at 82,has it in him to take up the CM’s job,he smiled,“I have it in me to campaign for the party.”

And does he prefer an assignment at the Centre or in the state? “When I was at the Centre,I liked it there. Now I am here in Karnataka and I like it. Look at the weather. Where will you get such kind of weather? Bangalore is doubly blessed by nature.”

Asked what he would do for Bangalore if he is elected chief minister,he said,“As and when the Congress returns to power,we will have to put in major efforts to put Bangalore back on rails. It is at present derailed and stuck in a morass. A corporation or an administration that cannot take care of the city’s garbage is incapable of taking the responsibility of the state. What has gone wrong with Bangalore is the BJP,its incompetence,callousness; they don’t know how to govern.”   

Asked if projecting him as chief ministerial candidate would have changed the party’s prospects,he said,“Six days before the elections,what is the point of talking about it?” About Narendra Modi’s question about the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate,he said,“It is none of Modi’s business. Once we get the majority,we know how to get our chief minister elected. We don’t need any unsolicited advice from Modi.”

As for his reported anger at being sidelined,the former chief minister said,“It is the biggest canard being spread. I am absolutely happy with the role I have got. No other political party gives as many opportunities to anyone as I have got from the Congress and Sonia Gandhi. All the time one cannot be skipper of the team. Sometimes,there is a reversal of roles.”

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