Deve Gowda days still haunt the Congress; Kumaraswamy feels the heat from partner- KVS Haridas

Whether the Congress party is suspicious about Deve Gowda’s party?. What are the problems that haunt the Congress ?. What prompted some of the Karnataka Congress leaders to tell it publicly that there was no agreement to the effect that HD Kumaraswamy will continue as the Chief Minister for full five years?. Will this coalition last for the five years………. these are the questions raised by the people of Karnataka in these days.

Every one knew that it was a last minute effort from the Congress that paved way for an alliance that too aimed just at keeping BJP out of power. Though the government could muster support in the legislature, its activities have been shelved; nothing happened there since the all-party celebrations during that swearing-in ceremony. Only the Chief Minister and a deputy Chief Minister are in office till now. The cabinet expansion didn’t take place due to the rift between the parties, both in Congress and the Janata Dal(S).

The JDS circles claims that they are ready with the list of people who are to be inducted into the cabinet; ” but Congress has not provided the same; without that the expansion of the cabinet is not possible”. Even as the discussions on cabinet expansion is going on, party chief Rahul Gandhi left the country and is holidaying in London. But the fact is that the Congress leadership still don’t have the faith in their legislators.; if the high command decides the list of ministers finally, many expect open revolt within the party. So Congress now feel that unless there are some concrete agreements with the JDS, it may be difficult to move ahead.

Even if Rahul Gandhi returns soon, it will not be easy for the Congress to shortlist their nominees to the Karnataka cabinet. A lot of pressure is there from all parts, including the Lingayath community. Since a vokalinga man, HD Kumaraswamy, becomes the Chief Minister, lingayath’s thinks they have a legitimate right to have at least a Deputy Chief minister’s post. But Congress has already put PCC chief G Parameswara, who is from the SC community, in the Deputy CM’s chair. The lingayath pressure is not just from the legislators but from the sanyasi maths, some of which supported the Congress openly in the recent polls.

Another problem the Congress is facing is from the Muslim-Christian communities. It’s known to all that the Islamic organisations this time supported the Congress openly; some of their organisations, including the SDPI, had even openly withdrawn their candidates to make way for the victory of Congress. So they do too expects a good representation in the state cabinet. The Christian church was with Sonia- Rahul in this election. It’s not a secret that the Christian leadership demands suitable posts to the high command. Apart from all these, so many Congress leaders who want to be in the cabinet were camping in the national capital. In fact, Rahul Gandhi had had two- three rounds of discussion before his foreign trip; but he could not reach anywhere.

The PCC leadership is said to be going to raise one more issue before the Chief Minister before the cabinet expansion; that is with regard to the allegations raised by Kumaraswamy during the electioneering against the then state government and the then Chief Minister Sidharamaiah. Kumaraswamy’s allegations worth thousands of crores during those days still haunts Congress leaders. Even as the Congress high command decided to support JDS in the state to form the government, Sidharamaiah’s worries are about these allegations. They are really afraid that JDS may put them in trouble by raising the same issues in one way or the other in the days to come. Sidharamaiah, who was a close lieutenant of Deve Gowda for several years, knew them well and can think of their game plans. So the state Congress leaders are likely to demand a written undertaking from Chief Minister to the effect that such allegations will neither be raised nor used at any stage and that they will stand with the Congress if the opposition BJP takes up such issues. It’s yet to be seen as to what will be the reaction of CM to those proposals. It may not be easy for Kumaraswamy to give such an undertaking in writing. But Congress leaders feel that if that doesn’t happen now, it may not be easy for them in the days to come.

Here some local Congress leaders point out the actions and decisions of Deve Gowda as the Prime Minister in 1997. He became PM with the outside support of Congress. In fact, Congress was the biggest party that supported him. But once took over the reigns of administration, he used every possible occasion to malign the Congress. It’s a fact too. Former Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherji in his latest book, “The Coalition Years” has pointed out the same. In page 20 of that book, under the heading ‘ Kesri’s role in destabilizing the united front’, Pranab da says that ” Deve Gowda government had been deliberately targetting the Congress. Members of the Congress, including former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, were being prosecuted by the police on charges of corruption. The Bofors issue too was once again resurrected by the Gowda government”. He continues: ” In fact, most of the ministers in Deve Gowda’s government had been vocal against previous Congress government and had vowed that they would carry on the Bofors case investigation with all seriousness. Events took a dramatic turn when CBI Director Joginder Singh came back from Geneva on 22nd January, 1997 with a box which allegedly contained vital documents related to the payoffs in the Bofors deal…………… that the Deve Gowda government was utilizing its official position to malign the Congress led to the clamour within the party for withdrawing support to the government”. From what Pranab da says, it’s clear that Congress still is not willing to forgive Deve Gowda for what he did in 1997. It is important that this book was published after he came out of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Another thing that we have to see here, though not part of the present issue, the Bofors was haunting the Congress even after the death of Rajiv Gandhi and that lead to the withdrawal of support to the united front government.

Those incidents, reminiscences, must be still haunting the Congress leadership. So it may be the high command itself that promoted the idea of getting a written undertaking from JDS, as much before Kumaraswamy settles down in CM’s Gadi. The allegation raised by JDS leader against former Congress state government with regard to the mining scam is worth above 5000 crores. It’s sure that those issues will crop up before the assembly through the opposition leaders, especially the BJP. So then it is important for the former Chief Minister and the high command to make sure that the CM stands with them in those occasions.

( Writer is a senior journalist, columnist, and political analyst based at Kochi)

Also Read: “Without the blessing of people, only with blessing of Rahul Gandhi, we’ve come to power”, says Kumaraswamy


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