Will Siddaramaiah’s Letter Politics Be a Hurdle For His New Job?

Siddaramaiah has written 9 letters criticising Kumaraswamy’s policies since the government formation. 

Updated
Politics
4 min read
Karnataka’s new chief minister HD Kumaraswamy with former CM Siddaramaiah.
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A day after the crushing defeat in the Karnataka Assembly election, on 16 May, a Wednesday afternoon, Siddaramaiah was cornered by his colleagues at an internal party meeting. They blamed his strategy for the party’s defeat.

But far from his characteristic confidence and defiance, an emotional Siddaramaiah apologised to the party leaders, taking full responsibility for the defeat. This was interpreted as the beginning of the downfall of his political career.

But little over two months later, Siddaramaiah was elected to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and has been given the mantle of leading the Karnataka Congress for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The appointment reaffirms the Congress’ confidence in the former chief minister, but the biggest challenge for Siddaramaiah in this role is his own politics with the JD(S).

Since the JD(S)-Congress coalition government came to power, Siddaramaiah has written 9 letters criticising  Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s policies. This constant criticism even led to an emotional outburst from Kumaraswamy at a public event.

This raises the big question of how Siddaramaiah will deal with the JD(S), who have already formed a pre-poll alliance for the Lok Sabha with the Congress.

Why Big Promotion Despite the Poll Defeat?

Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah.
Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah.
(Photo: PTI)

Congress leaders in the state believe Siddaramaiah is one of the few leaders capable of clearly planning an election campaign and Rahul Gandhi was not in favour of giving the responsibility to the other ‘laid-back’ leaders in the party.

He is also the only mass leader in the Congress party in the state. “Rahul Gandhi has seen his popularity during the election rallies. Leaders like G Parameshwara or Kharge don’t enjoy such popularity,” said a Congress leader.

Then comes the caste card. Even though the consolidation of the Vokkaliga, Lingayat, and Brahmin votes led to the Congress’ defeat, Siddaramaiah remains the undisputed leader of the Ahinda class (Kannada acronym for Dalits, Minorities and Backward Classes).

With the JD(S) and its Vokkaliga votes getting absorbed as part of the pre-poll alliance, the Ahinda vote bank will be crucial for the Congress to defeat the BJP.

But can Siddaramaiah keep the JD(S) happy?

Siddaramaiah’s Letter Politics

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy has received as much if not more opposition from Siddaramaiah than the BJP since the formation of the government. Siddaramaiah has written over nine letters to Kumaraswamy and ministers critiquing their policies.

While most of the letters were regarding Siddaramaiah’s constituency of Badami, in the last letter Siddaramaiah had asked Kumaraswamy to roll back the tax on fuel and also not to reduce the amount of rice distributed under Annabhagya scheme to families below the poverty line, from 7kg to 5kg.

Even though allies, Siddramaiah’s letters to the JD(S) leader used strong terms such as: “At this juncture, your decision to hike petrol and diesel prices will affect the common man.”

The letters had resulted in Kumaraswamy tearing up at a public meeting alleging he had drank poison like lord Shiva for the sake of the coalition government.

Why the Letter Politics?

A senior Congress leader pointed out that the letter politics was not an invention of Siddaramaiah, but that of HD Deve Gowda, father of the chief minister.

When Dharam Singh was made the chief minister of the JD(S)-Congress coalition in 2004, Deve Gowda wrote several letters to Singh, criticising his governance. “In fact, it was one of the reasons for the collapse of the coalition government in 2006,” said the senior leader.

So, what does Siddaramaiah intend to achieve? For some, his letter politics is an attempt to retain relevance in the state’s politics, but for others it is an attempt to ensure Kumaraswamy doesn’t become a bigger leader in the state.

“If you ask anyone who waived the farm loans, people would say Kumaraswamy and not the Congress-JD(S) government. So, in a scenario where the coalition splits, the JD(S) will gain more than the Congress,” said the leader.

Siddaramaiah is trying to avoid this scenario knowing well that he is the only leader in the Congress party who can stand up to the Gowda family, the leader added.

The Conflict Over Mysore Region

Since Kumaraswamy’s emotional breakdown, the Congress has asked Siddaramaiah to go easy on the JD(S). However, the real conflict will begin when seat-sharing between the JD(S) and the Congress for the Lok Sabha poll will be discussed.

The Old Mysore Region is the home turf for Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy. According to sources, the JD(S) is expecting the seats in Old Mysore Region as part of their pre-poll alliance deal.

At the same time, ensuring the Congress’ victory in the region is important for Siddaramaiah’s political future, as he had lost the Chamundeshwari seat in Mysore in the Assembly election.

Now what will Siddaramaiah do as the Congress’ go-to-man for Lok Sabha polls remains the big question.

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