‘Parrot, Eagle & A Kannada Song’: How Cong & JD(S) Are Breaking Up

The former chief ministers took potshots at each other, accusing each other for the failure of the coalition.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy (right). 
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Can a movie song have an impact on a state’s politics? Yes, if it is Karnataka. Quoting a Kannada song has started a war of words between two former chief ministers, effectively ending speculations of JD(S) and Congress having another alliance in the state.

If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) doesn’t win seven out of the 15 seats in the 21 October by-elections, the saffron party will lose power, giving the JD(S) and Congress a chance to revive the alliance and form the government again.

So, when former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, on 21 September, told his party workers to have “a friendly fight” with the Congress, there were speculations of another post-poll alliance, even though both parties had decided to contest the elections separately.

But the spat between HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah has led to both parties taking a firm stand not to join hands again. However, leaders in both camps say they have strong reasons other than this spat to opt against another alliance.

Parrot, Eagle and a Kannada Song

Karnataka’s new chief minister HD Kumaraswamy with former CM Siddaramaiah.
Karnataka’s new chief minister HD Kumaraswamy with former CM Siddaramaiah.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/INC)

The spat between the two leaders began when Siddaramaiah quoted the lyrics of the song Neene Sakida Gini (the parrot you nurtured) from 1982 Kannada film Manasa Sarovara. The song which talks about a parrot attacking the caretaker like an eagle, is often quoted to depict betrayal in the state.

Irked by Siddaramaiah using the lyrics in the context of the JD(S), implying that the Congress ensured the loss of its candidate in Kolar, Kumaraswamy told reporters: “He should explain who attacked Muniyappa like an eagle.”

In his response Siddaramaiah wrote on Twitter: “Yes you are right, the parrots I trusted attacked me like eagles. It was my mistake that despite four-decades’ experience I misconstrued an eagle to be a parrot and formed a coalition with it…”

The argument continued with Kumaraswamy saying: “HD Deve Gowda will one day write about the 100s of parrots that turned on him, including Siddaramaiah.” He further added: “Why did my government fall? I wasn’t a parrot nurtured by Siddaramaiah…He got power because of the Congress, and he is the one who is now out to finish it, not me.”

To which Siddaramaiah responded: “Having only been the chief minister with the support of other parties, is it possible for you to be chief minister by yourself?”

After this war of words, on Wednesday, 25 September, responding to The Quint’s query on post poll alliance, KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao said: “The party has completely ruled out any alliance.”

'Alliance was a Big Mistake'

Congress and JD(S) held their first joint rally in Bengaluru on 31 March.
Congress and JD(S) held their first joint rally in Bengaluru on 31 March.
(Photo: The Quint)

In the 15 seats going to by-election, there are several seats where the combined vote share of the Congress and the JD(S) was more than that of the BJP.

For example, in Mahalakshmi Layout the combined vote share of the Congress and the JD(S) was 68 percent in the 2018 Assembly elections, and in Hunsur constituency the combined vote share was 64.95 percent.

Even if the parties didn’t contest the election together, but had a “friendly competition”, the BJP’s defeat could be ensured – this was an argument put forth by some leaders in both parties.

However, the proposal was shot down immediately, with a large majority arguing that transfer of votes and party workers cooperating at the grass-root level worked only in theory.

Calling the alliance a “big mistake”, a Congress leader said that the alliance has affected the Congress more than helping it. “Party workers were not happy with the decision at all and it resulted in BJP gaining ground in many regions where the party had a strong stand. So, repeating the alliance would hurt the party in the long run,” he said.

Getting Vote Banks Back

In the 2019 General Elections, the BJP had won 25 out of the 28 seats in the state, including seats in the old Mysore region, which is a Vokkaliga stronghold. Depending on the candidates, Vokkaliga votes used to be split between the JD(S) and the Congress.

The post-poll analysis had pointed out that Vokkaligas, upset over traditional rivals JD(S) and Congress joining hands, had voted in BJP’s favour.

Both parties now want to consolidate this vote bank back from the BJP. The open spats between the leaders, according to sources, are part of the plans to send a message to those Congress and JD(S) workers who were upset with the alliance and went with the BJP.

However, despite the JD(S) and Congress returning to be political rivals, the fluid political situation in the state keep all options still open. “What if the BJP doesn’t win seven seats and becomes a minority? Will we go for a fresh election or go for another coalition government,” asked a Congress leader.

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