Game of  Throne in Karnataka
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns, Top Stories

Game of  Throne in Karnataka

June 28, 2024

I came and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift; nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, not yet favour to men of skill but time and chance happens to them all.

— Old Testament

The latest buzz in media after the earlier ones about sex scandals, by a film actor and two politicians, is about who will be the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. The paradox in the question is that it is asked even as we have Siddaramaiah as Chief Minister, enthroned just about a year ago in 2023.

As we know, despite a winning chance in 2023 the BJP Government, under former CM B.S. Yediyurappa and then CM Basavaraj Bommai, squandered the opportunity. BJP scored a self-goal by its incompetent, effete and venal governance.

In the 2023 Assembly polls Siddaramaiah, the Leader of the Congress Opposition and D.K. Shivakumar, the KPCC President, charged into the electoral battle ground like bulls on rampage. Compared to this duo, BJP’s B.S. Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai looked like cows on the run.

Learning from experience, the two Congress stalwarts came up with an out-of-the-box idea. They launched an affirmative action plan to lure the voters — announcing five irresistible guarantees to voters when the voting day was just a couple of months away. It was that election bonanza which attracted the voters to Congress like bees to flowers.

As for BJP, it was bankrupt of ideas to fight the election, merely chanting Rama and Modi Mantra before the voters. Congress trounced BJP — 135 against a dismal 65 — and marched triumphantly to       Vidhana Soudha.

As expected, this unexpected great victory with absolute majority, not having to reach out to JD(S) king-maker party of Karnataka, brought with it a problem for the Congress High Command. Who should be the Chief Minister? Siddaramaiah or D.K. Shivakumar (DKS)? That was the question bothering both the 135 Congress MLAs and the Congress High Command — read Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Yes, Mallikarjun Kharge from Karnataka was the new Congress President ‘elected’ on 17th October 2022. Mallikarjun Kharge is in the Congress High Command just as Dr. Manmohan Singh was the PM in UPA Government! Let it be.

It is not germane here to speculate who among the two contenders for CM’s post is the blue-eyed boy of the High Command. Media had, at that time, spoke of Sonia’s preference and of Rahul’s choice. Finally, the question was answered with a caveat. Siddaramaiah would be the Chief Minister for two-and-a-half-years (of the five-year term) and DKS would be the CM for the second half. In the meanwhile, DKS would be waiting in the wings as Dy.CM for his turn. This was the MoU, so to say, and accordingly Congress assumed power with Siddaramaiah as CM on May 20, 2023.

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All seemed hunky-dory for the second-coming of Siddaramaiah Government till the results of Parliamentary election in June 2024. It was a poor show for BJP, as expected, but it was not a good show for Congress either. However, the demand for new CM and for additional Dy.CMs, up to three or four, has begun to make news, rather one year too early. The demand for more Dy.CMs is to quell the demand for making DKS the CM and weaken his position politically, according to some political pundits.

Yesterday’s newspapers and TV channels carried news about both Siddaramaiah and DKS headed to Delhi, by evening, apparently for getting to know the mind of the High Command in this regard apart from their other business.

In the meanwhile, yesterday morning here in Bengaluru on the auspicious day of Kempegowda Jayanti, a prominent Vokkaliga Swamiji too has demanded that DKS be made the CM in the very presence of Siddaramaiah on the stage. The Swamiji’s reasoning is that Siddaramaiah has already held CM’s Office for full five years and now this is an extended period. Therefore, now an opportunity should be given to a ‘prominent leader of  Vokkaliga community.’ Surprisingly no one seemed to have mentioned the ‘MoU’ of 2023.

Reading about the rivalry for power among senior Congress MLAs belonging to different religions and castes, specially for the Dy.CMs’ posts and the CM’s Office, my thoughts went rambling about these political carpetbaggers and how in the past each succeeded in realising the dream office.

I have found a qualitative difference in the way BJP and Congress rewarded the party workers for their service to the party. BJP expects party workers to do selfless service, without expecting anything in return, just for the love of Mother India, Bharat Matha. A similar sentiment was expressed recently by the RSS Chief too. But let me, with apologies to Jesus, say that man does not live by the word of God alone but also by bread. Did you get me Steve?

However, in contrast Congress always rewarded those who served the party and the dynasty well. Loyalty to the party and the Dynasty was the sure way of getting rewarded with power, pelf or other kinds of benefits to a Congressman.

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Be that as it may, now let me recall, though faintly, how it happened in Congress in the past. I will begin with Devaraj Urs, the blue-eyed boy of Indira Gandhi. He did not have a caste base, being from Urs community, a minuscule minority community, he had zero balance in his Vote Bank account. He was the Chief Minister for one full term and also for the second term simply because of his loyalty to Congress party and the dynasty. However, to his bad luck, he fell out of favour with Indira Gandhi following post-Emergency political developments. His loyalty became suspect and Indira Gandhi replaced him with R. Gundu Rao, a Indira-Sanjay Gandhi loyalist.

Other names I remember are of Dy.CMs who were catapulted to CM’s Office for their loyalty and patience. To name, S. Bangarappa, Dr. M. Veerappa Moily and S.M. Krishna. Now we have Dy.CM D.K. Shivakumar waiting in the wings to become the CM and, I am sure, he too will be rewarded by the Congress High Command-Dynasty as per the MoU and Congress culture.

As an example to this loyalty and reward culture of Congress, I may add what DKS told Ramesh Aravind in his TV programme ‘Weekend with Ramesh’ some time back. DKS talks about how Rajiv Gandhi chose him over other seniors to go abroad for a conference and how his opinion influenced Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, in choosing S. Bangarappa as CM after removing a bedridden Chief Minister Veerendra Patil. Hearing DKS, I thought, if Rajiv Gandhi were to be alive today, DKS would not have had to worry about becoming a CM by now. But who knows, to be fair to DKS, the dynasty might decide the destiny of DKS favourably.

Whatever it be, we see straws in the wind about the change to come — the conflicts within the Congress, betrayals and shifting of loyalties if DKS is denied his rightful claim to the Throne of Karnataka.

Believe it or not: When S. Bangarappa as CM offered DKS the Ministry of Prisons and Home Guards, DKS was reluctant to accept the portfolio. But Bangarappa told him, “I too was given the same portfolio by Devaraj Urs and see where I am now. You too may become the Chief Minister.” Did you get me Steve?

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