Siddaramaiah Takes Serious Note Of Modi’s Elevation
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddar-amaiah was having lunch when BJP President Rajnath Singh made a formal announcement appointing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman of the party’s election campaign committee on Sunday. Siddaramaiah’s first task, then, was to ask his three ministerial confidants Dr H C Mahadevappa, Srinivasa Prasad and Mahadeva Prasad to be available at his residence in late evening.
Around 4.30 PM, when Siddara-maiah was attending an official function at Doddaballapur, 40-km from Bengaluru, an officer of the intelligence wing whispered in the Chief Minster’s ear that former Chief Minister and Lingayat strongman B S Yeddyurappa had welcomed Modi’s elevation as chairman of BJP campaign committee. Siddaramaiah’s immediate task was to ask his private secretary to inform senior officials of the finance department to meet him at his residence on Monday morning.
The purpose of summoning his ministerial confidants was to discuss the likely impact of Modi in Karnataka and work out a fool-proof strategy to counter the charismatic leader. It was decided in the meeting that they would closely monitor Modi’s every step, including his body language, tone, tenor and content of his speech. The objective of summoning the senior official of the finance department was to discuss ways and means to prepare the budget with thrust and focus on minorities, the Backward Classes and SC/STs.
All these are indicative of the fact that Siddaramaiah has taken Modi’s elevation seriously, though the AICC has dismissed Gujarat Chief Minister’s new position as inconsequential. The seriousness with which the Karnataka Chief Minister has taken the development in BJP is quite understandable.
Siddaramaiah has to prove that he is vote-getter by ensuring his party’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections to be held in late 2013 or early 2014. The Congress has only six seats in the present Parliament from Karnataka and Siddaramaiah’s task is to get at least 20 out of 28 seats.
Having realised that the two numerically significant and politically influential communities Lingayats and Vokkaligas would continue to remain with Yeddyurappa and H D Deve Gowda respectively, it is imperative on the part of Siddaramaiah to consolidate the BCs, SC/STs and minorities, in order to win maximum number of Lok Sabha seats. In his calculations, Modi becoming the face of BJP will make the minorities go away from the NDA partners. In this backdrop, Siddaramaiah wants to attract the minorities towards the Congress which according to him is their natural habitat. At the same time, he would like to ensure that they may not veer towards the JD (S).
The Karnataka Chief Minister has decided to utilise the forthcoming budget which he is going to present in July to create a feel-good factor and win maximum number of Lok Sabha elections, lest he is ousted from the Chief Minister’s post for non-performance. As it is, this Kuruba strongman has been chosen overriding many senior “aboriginal” Congress leaders. It is against this backdrop, Siddaramaiah was quick to ask his officers in the finance department to start preparing for a budget which would be “please-all” but at the same time “slightly please-more” the downtrodden and weaker sections of society. That these two sections of society, which means the minorities, SC/STs and BCs form the Congress’s core electoral base needs no mention.
There is a reason for Siddaramaiah to sit up and think seriously the impact of Modi in Karnataka. Like himself (Siddaramaiah), his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi also belongs to the backward “Teli” samaj (Ganigas
in Karnataka dealing in oil). Siddar-amaiah belongs to the Kuruba community, which is classified as BCs. But to be fair to Modi, he has never taunted his BC tag anywhere in the country and has always pitched on development agenda, attacking the Congress in all his speeches.
Siddaramaiah could have adopted cool and casual approach, if not a laidback attitude, to Modi’s development. But what has made him to take up this development seriously is Yeddyurappa’s statement welcoming Modi’s elevation and complimenting the BJP for its decision. “I wish Modi all success. It is a wise decision of the BJP to appoint Modi as its election campaign committee chairman. The BJP ought to have taken this decision long back,” Yeddyurappa said in a statement.
Does it mean that Yeddyurappa is tilting towards the BJP or at least willing to extend his hand to the saffron party to work as one of the NDA allies? If it happens, what will be Congress’s fate in Karnataka? Siddaramaiah’s decision to summon his ministerial confidants and start preparing to present a people-friendly budget was to find answer to the above question and overcome it. It is as clear as daylight that the Congress party’s victory in the May 2013 Assembly elections was largely due to Yeddyurappa’s KJP eating into BJP votes. The KJP took only six seats but polled 10 per cent of the popular votes. The vote percentage of Congress increased slightly, from 34.67 per cent in 2008 to 36.31 per cent in 2013. But its seat tally went up from 80 in 2008 to 121 in 2013, thanks to the quirk in the first-past-the-post system of elections which we have adopted.
In the event of Yeddyurappa re-joining which is most unlikely or at least if the Lingayat strongman becomes NDA’s partner, then the BJP’s vote share will increase and could also win about 14 to 16 seats. Where will that leave Siddaramaiah? It is to overcome this situation and emerge victorious. Siddaramaiah has started burning midnight oil.
If the Chief Minister is seriously making preparations at the government level, he is also expected to take up with the high command the need to induct three more ministers, each from minorities, SC/STs and BCs in order to send a right “electoral” signal to these communities. He has also decided to prevail upon the high command the need to appoint party workers chairmen of SC/ST, BC and Minority development corporations, besides the chairman for the Minority Commission.
We can expect Siddaramaiah to become more vocal, dynamic and mobile, as he has to retain the chair which he has been able to get after crossing many hurdles and putting in hard efforts. Will Siddaramaiah be successful, only time will tell.
By S A Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru