Siddu is . . . King Cong
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Siddu is . . . King Cong

The Nanjangud and Gundlupet by-election has been a good preliminary exam for Karnataka politicians. While it gave Congress party, which is suffocating under bad leadership, a gasp of air, the BJP choked…and if it does not change strategy it will drown in 2018.

But the most dramatic part of the election was that V. Sreenivasa Prasad, who initiated Siddharamaiah into politics was uninitiated from electoral politics by the same Siddharamaiah!  Yes, Sreenivasa Prasad, a man who roared in Nanjangud for three decades, had to purr away from electoral politics.

On the other hand, Siddharamaiah, who on numerous occasions said that he would retire from electoral politics has now, rejuvenated by victory, announced that he will continue in electoral politics.  This also signals the birth of another political family because Siddharamaiah’s son, MBBS doctor, Dr. Yathindra, has stepped into politics with his involvement in the recent by-elections.

Sreenivasa Prasad didn’t want to leave electoral politics but now is forced to leave, while a CM who wanted to leave electoral politics is now enthused to carry on! This reminds me of a line from the Bible, “The race in not to the swift nor battle to the strong, but time and chance happenth to all.” And as everyone who has followed Karnataka politics knows, when it comes to time and chance ‘adrushta’ no one stands a chance against Siddharamaiah.

When it comes to politics, Siddharamaiah is a lucky man. A man who became Dy.CM after being an MLA for just 7 years and then CM by being in another party for just 7 years, while people who have been in a party for over two decades have been deprived of that gaddi. Hopefully after this victory, in which D.K. Shivakumar had a significant part to play, Siddharamaiah will make him at least KPCC President, if not a CM candidate.

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Now, with the twin victories Siddharamaiah is the King of Congress in Karnataka. With this victory Siddharamaiah is the new YSR of Congress party.  A CM who will be allowed to run the show with minimal intrusion from Madame. After all, Capt. Amarinder Singh in Punjab proved that when Congress High Command stays away from a State, Congress does well in that State.

So Siddharamaiah will be given free reins and with that Mallikarjun Kharge, who was hoping to come back to Karnataka to lead the Congress, may have to remain in Delhi for a bit longer.

But while Siddu is the King in Cong…the king-maker will once again be JD(S).  After all, it was the JD(S) which allowed Congress to borrow their man Kalale Keshavamurthy to defeat Sreenivasa Prasad. Interestingly while Prasad said Siddharamaiah was a ‘Durahankari,’ it seems by compromising with JD(S), a party Siddharamaiah left in revolt, he has shown that when he wants to win, he can let go of his ‘Durahankara’.

While Congress is rejoicing, the BJP is left dazed and confused. But to many this result is not surprising at all. To begin with, there was no need for BJP to so eagerly initiate Prasad into BJP, a party led by a Lingayat community strongman Yeddyurappa. After all, Nanjangud is where the communities of Prasad and Yeddy clashed violently in 1992, the scars of which still remain, so also the memories.

Also how could BJP expect their grassroots workers to support  Prasad, a leader they disliked until just six months ago?

It is a lesson for BJP that they cannot take Lingayat community votes for granted just because they have a Lingayat community man leading the party.

While Sreenivasa Prasad resigned and challenged the CM for his ‘Swabhimana,’ the Lingayats voted against Sreenivasa Prasad and BJP for their ‘Swabhimana’. The result of Nanjangud, more than a victory for Congress, is a vote for Lingayat pride.

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Also what was the need to welcome S.M. Krishna, the 84-year-old former Congressman? Krishna was practicing opportunistic politics but BJP, it seems, was practicing foolish politics.

What was the need to waste time propping up a  politically spent force and a leader who even at the peak of his career could not win elections without the help of D.K. Shivakumar?

Seems like BJP’s Operation Kamala, a scheme to poach effective politicians from other parties, has now turned into Operation Wilting Kamala as they are taking only old and spent political forces. And in doing so BJP is withering away. This has frustrated party workers to a point that some of them refused to work for their own party!

Yes, indeed these two victories cannot be a sign of what will happen in 2018. After all, in 2003 when S.M. Krishna was the CM by-elections were held in Humnabad constituency in Bidar and Hunagund constituency in Bagalkot a few months before general elections. Congress, which was then the ruling party, won both the seats by a significant margin, but six months later they lost badly in the general elections.

So for BJP there is still hope, they can start by stopping Operation Kamala and sticking to the leaders their party workers’ trust.  Also let’s not forget, Karnataka has a history of never having a party ruling at the Centre also rule our State at the same time. So if Modi wins 2018…we just may have Kumaranna back in the CM seat…and the nataka in Karnataka politics may continue.

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April 15, 2017

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