After the ignominious defeat in the prestigious Hebbal Assembly seat in the bye-poll Siddu’s Rs 70-lakh diamond-Studded Watch ensures his Time to quit?
Time and tide wait for none; but if the time being shown is from a diamond-studded watch worth Rs 70 lakh being used by somebody who claims to be a die-hard socialist, then the tide, surely, has turned against him. This is Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah’s embarrassing position, he finds himself in. He is under attack from former chief minister and JD (S) president H.D. Kumaraswamy, who has been bombarding the Kuruba strongman for wearing a watch that costs Rs 70 lakh, and which is diamond-studded, and wears a sun-glass that costs Rs 1.75 lakh.
Though Siddaramaiah has dismissed the charge as a gimmick (under tremendous public and political pressure he has now handed the watch over to the Speaker of the Assembly, saying it is a public property), he, however, has not been convincing and logical as he goofed up many times while replying on the issue. First he said that it was a gift from his friend and later he said it was his friend’s watch which he was using for the time being. After having caught on the wrong foot, the Congress leaders adopted an offensively-defensive stand by launching a counter-attack on Kumaraswamy. They said, “The JD (S) state president and his family members too own a number of costly cars worth several crores; he also have costly watches. Let him come out clean on this issue,” thundered Congress MLC V.S. Ugrappa.
Polemics apart, the issue has snowballed into a major embarrassment for the Congress high command which is burning midnight oil as to how wriggle the party as well as the chief minister out of an embarrassing situation. For, the Congress had gone to town slamming Narendra Modi for wearing a suit costing Rs 10 lakh. Inspite of the matter having made clear that the cost of the suit was only Rs 10,000 and was donated by one of his admirers, the Congress teased, humiliated, insulted and pilloried Modi, which, of course, did not deter him. The Congress stood exposed, when the clarification came out in a big way.
That Siddaramaiah is alone on this issue and none of his die-hard supporters have come to his rescue only means that the issue is not as simple as it looks like. When this report was going to print, it looked like Siddaramaiah had decided to auction his watch as well as his sun-glasses but the matter does not seem to die down.
Before the auction process commences, Siddaramaiah needs to say how he got these two things and if he says that they are his own, then why was he auctioning. Second question would be how did he purchased such costly items and the source of his income. The third question would be that did he inform the IT authorities and fourth would be, has he declared it in his Lokayukta affidavit?
If on the other hand, Siddaramaiah says that he received it as a gift then the question would why did he got such a costly gift for what return and to whom? Perhaps, sensing such inconvenient questions would arise, his loyal-supporters in the ministry such as Dr H.C. Mahadevappa, Mahadeva Prasad, etc. have not come forward to defend their leader. But several legislators indulged in counter-attack against Kumaraswamy by exposing the alleged costly cars, sun-glasses owned by his sons and his family members.
But Kumaraswamy retorted, “My family members have not declared that they are socialist by ideology or in practice. So there is nothing wrong in what they possess. And in so far as the source of income to buy these things is concerned, I will reply to the IT authorities, if there is any probe.” He added, “I am too matured to indulge in such trivials. But the reason why I raised this issue is to expose the double-talk and double-standards as well as the hypocrisy of Siddaramaiah, who claims to be a great socialist but his public conduct being contrary to what he profess.”
Added to Siddaramaiah’s woes, the Congress lost the prestigious by-election from Hebbal to the BJP, which retained the seat. Though, technically the Congress never held the seat, the battle, however, had gained significance due to the statement made by the chief minister. “The defeat in Hebbal could cost my chair,” Siddaramaiah had said, even before the campaigning started. It was clearly an emotional blackmail that the chief minister indulged in.
About the Congress candidature too, Siddaramaiah had to cut a sorry figure as the high command rejected his nominee, Byrathi Suresh, a fellow-Kuruba and instead selected the young Rehman Sharief, the grandson of veteran leader C.K.Jaffer Sharief. Shocked by the turn of events, Siddaramaiah, with a sheepish smile, said, “All candidates selected by the high command are mine. We have to ensure their victories.” But this did not happened in Hebbal and Deodurga (Raichur district) which the BJP wrested from Congress. The only consolation for the Congress is that it won Bidar assembly seat, by snatching it from BJP.
That means has Siddaramaiah’s Rs 70-lakh diamond-studded watch told him the time to exit?
Not really because TINA factor – There-is-no-alternative factor would work in his favour and enable him to sail through, though the Kuruba strongman would find his position more vulnerable than ever before. Congress high command is finding it difficult to choose a replacement to Siddaramaiah, whose clout, reach and grip over the BCs is too strong to be ignored. And in the event of high command deciding to remove Siddaramaiah, then the choice of his successor is more difficult and excruciatingly painful than the removal of the present incumbent. For, there are too many contenders and all powerful and having their own clout within the party and in their respective communities.
Presuming that the high command would choose Mallikarjuna Kharge, a top Dalit leader and a proven good administrator, then it will have to invite the wrath of the Vokkaligas and Lingayaths, two socially-forward, numerically significant, and politically-crucial communities. On the other hand, if the high command chooses a forward caste man as Siddaramaiah’s successor, then it will invite the risk of antagonising the BCs who constitute 32 per cent of the votes. Clearly the Congress high command is facing a Hobson’s choice in so far as the party affairs in Karnataka are concerned. And Karnataka is the only big state after Assam which it is ruling after losing a large tract of land in the country. Coming days would be too curious for the keen political analysts and crucial for the Congress in general and Siddaramaiah in particular.
The debate of Karnataka politics touches new low
It all started with the question posed by former chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy to chief minister Siddaramaiah whether the latter paid money for the saree he purchased at Davanagere during the inauguration of a showroom of the Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation.
It ought to have ended with a simple innocuous reply. But the debate assumed unimaginable proportion and took unprecedented dimension. That in the process, the tone, tenor and content got filthy and nasty goes without saying. The hapless public watched the dirty political soap opera that was disgusting and nauseating. “I am afraid and I hope these politicians do not discuss about the brand and size of their innerwears as well as that of their spouses” a disgusted lady told Uday India, during a casual chat recently.
Known for throwing gauntlet at his opponents, Kumaraswamy, during the on-going campaign in the bye-elections to three assembly seats, dropped a bombshell when he said that the watch being used by Siddaramaiah costed Rs 70 lakh and demanded a ‘convincing and credible’ explanation about its origin. “If it is a gift, then the chief minister must tell whether he has declared it or not. If he has purchased it, then Siddaramaiah must disclose the source of income,” Kumaraswamy said, at a press conference. It is a matter of great disappointment and curiosity as well as inexplicable as to how, and why the otherwise cautious Siddaramaiah handled the potentially explosive issue in such a flippant manner. First the chief minister said it was his friend’s gift. But the question came, “What favour you did to whom for him to give you such a costly gift?” There was no reply but some of the Congress leaders tried to corner Kumaraswamy by saying that he too had received gifts during his tenure as chief minister and whether he declared the gifts. Kumaraswamy replied in the affirmative and continued his bombardment. “It is not only the watch, the sun glasses being used by the chief minister costs about Rs 3 lakhs. Let him explain,” Kumaraswamy said.
In his conversation with Uday India, Kumaraswamy said, “I would not have raised this issue but what forced me to do so was Siddaramaiah keep on saying that he is a socialist who cares for the poor and the downtrodden. Is this the way a real socialist conducts and behaves? Is it not hypocricy? I wanted to expose him,” Kumaraswamy said.
But this venture of Kumaraswamy seems to have back-fired on him. Hitting him at where it hurts most, several Congress leaders claimed that the JD (S) president has numerous watches which he got as gifts besides his actor-son Nikhil Gowda owning many high-end cars including SUVs. “Will Kumaraswamy now say that whether he declared it to the Income Tax authorities?” senior Congress leader and MLC V.S.Ugrappa asked.
The debate attained a new low when Mandya former Congress MP and cine actor Ramya criticised Kumaraswamy for hitting at Siddaramaiah. Apparently, she was trying to defend the chief minister. But that proved costly for her. Kumaraswamy retorted, “I know with whom you had been to tour of European countries and how many days you stayed at London. But I would not like to reveal it now and will wait till the appropriate time,” he said. But what proved him costly was his remark, “I do not want to be guided by a cine-actor” Ramya retaliated. “Everybody knows that your girlfriend Radhika is a cine actor. You also have a son from her. I know that you had been to Singapore and Sri Lanka with your girl friend. Your son is also a film actor. I can also keep on saying these things. I am not the one to be cowed down,” Ramya screamed.
What is no more a secret in this diatribe and war of words is Kumaraswamy’s affair with Radhika, a Kannada cine actor but what is very little known and being discussed in surreptious tones is Ramya’s proximity to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. But nobody in Congress dare to discuss this in open, though Congress leaders speak “off-the-record” with the workers as well as the media.
Things became too hot, as well as nasty and filthy, when Congress alleged that Kumaraswamy’s son has too many costly cars which are not registered and not declared with the Income Tax authorities with Kumaraswamy retaliating that “there are many skeletons” in the cupboard of the Congress leaders, including their, sleazy affairs, which he could expose at the right time. What started with a curious question about the KSIC saree at Davanagere does not show of ending with both the sides trading charges against each other that has degenerated into a nasty and filthy debate. People are eagerly and anxiously watching whether this soap opera will end or will it come down from Saree to Innerwears!
By S.A. Hemantha Kumar