Finally, the outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has brought 'JD(S) bhagya' for the Congress party! An achievement, indeed!
Once a Janata Parivar man, Siddaramaiah has been made to surrender the Congress to JD (S) president H D Deve Gowda. The Congress has slipped from the hands of Siddaramaiah for the first time since he joined the party in July 2006.
Forget the outcome of the 2018 assembly elections for now. Forget who would draw a holy or unholy alliance to hold the reins of administration. It would take at least a couple of days to get a clear picture as to whether the game plans of Deve Gowda would work or Amit Shah & Co., would outsmart Gowda.
But the fact remains that Siddaramaiah has almost packed off the Congress in Karnataka, for now. He has helped the Congress to confine itself to PPP (Punjab, Puducherry and Pariwar), as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had often said during the campaign. Would be rather correct to say the BJP performed better than the Congress-led by Siddaramaiah?
What led Siddaramaiah to bite the dust? Why he did he get defeated with a margin of 36,042 votes in Chamundeshwari, the constituency from where he had begun his political career? Even in a Kuruba dominated constituency like Badami, he just has scraped through with a narrow margin of 1,696 votes. Interestingly, the NOTA count here is 2,007, higher than the victory margin of Siddaramaiah.
At least in Chamundeshwari one can understand his defeat. He was pitted against a local popular leader G T Deve Gowda. And, there was a Vokkaliga votes' consolidation here. But in Badami, BJP's B Sriramulu, a Scheduled Tribe candidate, made Siddaramaiah sweat for every vote.
In this constituency of 2.1 lakh voters, the estimated Kuruba population is 65,000. The total votes polled for him is 67,599. When he almost fled from Chamundeshwari to Badami, he gave an impression that his presence would help the party to consolidate votes in about 18 constituencies in North Karnataka where his community people, Kurubas, have significant presence. Forget influencing others, he has just managed to win.
The trauma of Siddaramaiah began on Sunday, two days prior to the results were announced. He had to cancel his official tour programme to his home district Mysuru and stay back in the capital to announce that he would make way for a Dalit to become chief minister.
On Tuesday, the crestfallen Siddaramaiah has to bow down to the dictates of both his party Delhi leaders as well as Deve Gowda. His 56-inch chest shrunk when he had to fold hands before HD Kumaraswamy, who by default is trying to be the chief minister.
Siddaramaiah, one of the highly articulate leaders of Karnataka, had minced no words to hit out his past leader Deve Gowda. He has never shared a cordial relationship with Kumaraswamy. Despite all these and more, Siddaramaiah has to keep his massive ego aside to be submissive to the party as well as to the JD(S).
The Congress high command, while not allowing Siddaramaiah to take any decision in this regard, just kept him in the frame.
Now the questions are - how come the flagship schemes of Siddaramaiah did not yield electoral dividends? Did the BJP was right in accusing him of pursuing divisive politics? Did the Veerashaiva-Lingayat division issue result in the consolidation of Hindu votes?
In 2013, when Siddaramaiah led the poll battle, the Congress won 122 seats and the vote share was 36.6%. This time, the party has got 78 seats of the total 222 and the vote share is 38%. Then where is the significant contribution of him to the party's poll prospects except adding 1.4 percentage point for the vote share?
Probably, in private, he may argue that bearing the onslaught of BJP national leaders coupled with Yeddyurappa's continuous work was a big challenge for him. But for the ad blitzkrieg and extensive footprint in social media, the Congress' work not have been discussed much in the mainstream media.
Siddaramaiah did try every trick of the trade to project himself as the best chief minister. He had kept his coterie members happy. He had given freedom to his core team to give lectures on good Hindu, bad Hindu and Hinduism. He had hired good ad agencies and PR agencies of the country to get footprints offline and online. He had positioned himself as the No 1. CM of No 1. Government of No 1. State in India.
He had umpteen times said the Anna Bhagya scheme had made Karnataka hunger-free. He gave an impression that 4 crore people were dying without food before he became annadata. In fact, he had sought votes saying the time had come for the beneficiaries to repay his runa (debt) through votes.
He ensured that there was no anti-incumbency factor working against his government. He sought both positive and negative votes. He sneered at Modi and ridiculed Yeddyurappa as much as possible. He was the lone face of the party till Rahul Gandhi campaigned across the state. But neither Rahul's babbling nor his mother's single speech helped Siddaramaiah in any manner.
He insisted that he was not casteist or against Hindu religion. He had claimed he was a humane Hindu. But through a simple overnight notification, he tried to lower the Hindu population by giving minority status to Lingayats, on paper.
But the poll results show that Lingayats, who form about 17% of the total voters, are still with the BJP. Of the six regions, it is only the Hyderabad-Karnataka region which has given him some breathing space. The region is a known Congress bastion.
The poll outcome also reflects badly on the performance of the Siddaramaiah ministry. A dozen plus four ministers have lost the poll battle. H Anjaneya, who was social welfare minister, tops of the list of among these losers. The victory margin of his opponent is 38,940 votes. Siddaramaiah stands next only to him in the margin of loss.
How would Siddaramaiah take his future forward? It is difficult to predict because politics is of possibilities.
At present, he can be a mute spectator to the renewed love between the Congress and JD (S). He would have to just remain an MLA. In case Kumaraswamy becomes the chief minister, he would have to sit behind him in the second row in the legislative assembly hall. At the most he may become head the Congress unit in the State. Probably, he would be better placed as the leader of the Opposition in case the BJP manages to come to power.
If you ask K Mukudappa, the founder president of Ahinda, as to what future holds for Siddaramaiah, he brusquely says, "Why bother about one individual? He has made his son MLA and he is happy. What about the future of Kurubas? Siddaramaiah has fought against Sriramulu, a ST candidate, Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat strongman, Deve Gowda, the backbone of Vokkaligas. In addition, he has antagonized Hindus by trying to divide Lingayats. I had worked with Siddaramaiah for 38 years. I am sad he has done so much injustice to his own community - Kurubas. He will get rehabilitated somehow. But the damage he has done to the community is enormous."
Siddaramaiah deserves compliment for one thing – he did not go for a pre-poll alliance with the JD(S). If he had done that, definitely voters would have further distanced themselves from the Congress.