Karnataka chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy on Tuesday said that veteran Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge should have been given the top job in the state to counter the growing clamour calling for reinstatement of Siddaramaiah as chief minister of the southern state.
Kumaraswamy said that Kharge, one of the senior most Congress leaders in the country, was not made chief minister despite having tirelessly working for it over the last five decades.
The statements supporting Kharge come amid reports of souring relationship between Kumaraswamy and his predecessor, Siddaramaiah, which has only worsened in recent times thus laying bare the widening divide between the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress coalition in Karnataka.
“Mallikarjuna Kharge should have become the chief minister long ago. I feel injustice has been done to him. I would like to clearly say that Kharge has not been given recognition for the work he has done," Press Trust of India reported, quoting Kumaraswamy.
The statements were made by Kumaraswamy while he was campaigning in Chincholi in Kalaburagi district, which is going to by-polls along with Kundgol constituency on 19 May.
The statements attracted sharp reactions from coalition leaders as well from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is keenly awaiting an opportunity to cash in on the growing divide between the alliance partners.
“He should resign and make Kharge the CM immediately," B.S.Yeddyurappa, BJP state president said on Wednesday in Kalaburagi.
The BJP is hopeful that the differences between the JD(S)-Congress alliance will lead to the collapse of the coalition government soon after 23 May, when the results for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections are slated to be announced.
The JD(S)-Congress alliance has struggled to quell dissent among its leaders as well its workers in the ongoing parliamentary polls, which could give the BJP an advantage in parts of south Karnataka where it has little or no presence at all.
The attempt to keep the alliance united by painting the BJP as the “common enemy" worked only to a small extent as leaders from both sides have spared no opportunity to attack each other.
A victory in both the by-poll seats is crucial for the alliance to keep its flock together, which allegedly is being actively pursued by the BJP with promises of hefty monetary returns and plum ministerial berths.
Yeddyurappa stoked controversy on Tuesday when he asked the Veerashaiva community not to vote for the Congress. “I plead with the people of the Veerashaiva community that even if one vote from the community goes to the Congress, which humiliated Veerendra Patil despite winning 178 seats (in 1989), it will be a big crime," he said.
BJP is hoping to bring down Kharge in Kalaburagi parliamentary seat and Chincholi, which falls under the same district, by consolidating Veerashaiva and Banjara communities, among others, against the Congress.
The JD(S) and Congress have been unable to overcome their bitter and violent past and the level of mistrust appears to have only grown since the two came together after the hung verdict in last year's assembly elections. The two sides are planning to go it alone even in the upcoming panchayat and other corporation polls in order to not aggravate their respective grassroot level cadres anymore.