A belligerent Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy threatened to quit on Monday, upset over alliance partner Congress’s legislators accusing him of poor governance and praising the works of his predecessor Siddaramaiah.
Although Kumaraswamy is known to overstate things to the press and change his mind later, the statement was taken seriously by the Congress whose leaders scurried to patch up with the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), leader by taking disciplinary action against its own dissident legislators.
Analysts said that while Kumaraswamy is in no mood to concede that his leadership faces a threat, seeking a change of leadership may come with the risk of the Congress losing power in the only southern state it rules. The JD(S) holds the balance of power in Karnataka where both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, despite winning big, fell narrowly short to make it on their own.
The latest event unfolded after two Congress lawmakers, loyal to Siddaramaiah, heavily criticized Kumaraswamy’s performance as chief minister in separate public events on Sunday. One of them, S.T. Somashekar said that there would have been “real development" if Siddaramaiah had got another term. The second, minister for backward classes welfare C. Puttarangashetty, declared: “Only Siddaramaiah is my chief minister".
Kumaraswamy angrily responded when reporters asked for a comment on Monday. “It is their problem. Congress leaders have to watch all that issues. If they want to continue with the same thing, I am ready to step down. They are crossing the line," the chief minister said.
Dinesh Gundu Rao, Congress president in Karnataka, issued strong reprimands against the legislators. “Our MLA Sri S.T. Somashekar has made statements which cross the lakshmanrekha of coalition politics. It cannot be tolerated, especially when he is holding a responsible position. It’s an act of indiscipline and action will be initiated," he tweeted.
“Any act of indiscipline by way of comments or behaviour will not be tolerated and discipline action will be initiated. Our coalition with the JD(S) is to take on the communal forces and unseat the anti democratic forces ruling this country, not to indulge in petty politicking," he added.
He said Somashekar came to the Congress office and expressed his regret and apologized to the CM.
Congress general secretary and Karnataka in-charge K.C. Venugopal said a showcause notice has been sent to Somashekhar over his controversial remarks. “If the explanation is not satisfactory, party will take strong disciplinary action," he said.
“The Congress high command has full faith in Karnataka Govt and Chief Minister. The Government is moving ahead with popular and welfare measures reflecting the ambitions of the people in Karnataka," Venugopal tweeted.