Opportunism and the political compulsion of coexisting as a coalition in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections may force the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular to trudge along for now, but the deep division in the month-old combine are too stark to miss.
It was due to the resentment that Siddaramaiah bore towards HD Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy that the former had quit the JD-S in 2005.
Sidda, as he is called in short, was convinced that Deve Gowda unfairly favoured his son to succeed him and the two together conspired to marginalise Sidda, twice sidestepping him for chief ministership. When it happened the second time and the mantle fell on JH Patel in 2004, Sidda reckoned that enough was enough. He walked out of the party and the next year joined the Congress.
Sidda served a full term as chief minister before the recent elections when the BJP trounced the Congress, but the latter forged a coalition with the JD-S by offering the chief ministership to Kumaraswamy who jumped at the opportunity.
Ironically, Congress president Rahul Gandhi chose Sidda to head the coordination and monitoring panel jointly set up by the two parties to iron out any differences between the two in the course of governance.
That this would prove to be a disaster given the strained relationship between Sidda and Kumaraswamy is now well on the cards.
With Sidda’s men given a raw deal in the allocation of ministerial berths, many of his supporters are gravitating towards Sidda. Recently, nine of them visited him while he was recuperating from an illness and there were closed-door confabulations.
The first bone of contention has come on the issue of Kumaraswamy’s insistence that he as Finance Minister will present his own budget and not implement Siddaramaiah’s budget presented by the erstwhile Congress government in February last.
Kumaraswamy is not wrong in his insistence but Sidda sees red in the former’s stand because he and the Congress believe that the motivation is to honour his election promise to give a waiver of farm loans to win favour with the farmers. Sidda says there is no need for a fresh full budget and that his government had already given farmers a partial loan waiver.
In a war of words that has broken out between Sidda and Kumaraswamy, the latter rubbed it in recently that he did not become chief minister by either “mercy” or by “begging” for the post but was being sought to be prevented from presenting a full budget.
That Kumaraswamy had the full budget presentation cleared by Rahul Gandhi has irked Sidda but he is no position to openly say so.
Kumaraswamy on Monday said that though there was a budget presented by his predecessor in February, there were at least 100 new legislators whose aspirations need to be reflected in the new administration.
The government is scheduled to present a budget on July 5 but the issues between the partners cannot be wished away.
It is believed that in two videotapes of Sidda’s parleys with his legislator supporters Sidda lashed out at Kumaraswamy and hinted that he would not remain in the coalition saddle after the Lok Sabha polls are done with. That has irritated Kumaraswamy no end but there is a school of thought that the ‘leak’ of the tapes may well have been the handiwork of wily Sidda and his men.
If the Kumaraswamy government falls whether it would be the result of the machinations of the Sidda faction of the Congress or of the BJP jockeying to come to power is still in the realm of speculation.
The BJP is, indeed, eyeing to return to power for which it needs switched support of 14 Congress/JD (S) legislators or their abstention in a vote. Only time will tell how durable the current coalition will be.