Is Sulking Rahul Gandhi Upset, Hurt over Party Moves in Karnataka?

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Rahul Gandhi at election campaign

Rahul Gandhi seems upset over the way his party is trying to come to power in Karnataka.

While the Congress in Bengaluru and Delhi put up a show of happiness over the prospects of coming to power in Karnataka, Congress president Rahul Gandhi clearly seems to be upset. That probably explains why he was not seen in public the whole of yesterday as the results poured in.

Though a punching bag for the BJP and despite all his shortcomings, one thing has to be said about Rahul Gandhi in all fairness – he believes in fair means to an end and, to an extent, honesty in politics. He has been preaching this when he promises to bring a change. In the case of Karnataka, he was upset that though his party lost, the lust for power forced his partymen to offer the crown to HD Kumaraswamy, a bitter enemy.

If sources in the Congress are to be believed, Rahul Gandhi disagreed with his mother on the way the party is trying to come to power in Karnataka. He was of the view that the Congress had lost the polls as the party was reduced from 122 seats to just 78. But the BJP was the choice of the voters as the seat share increased from 40 to 104. But Sonia disagreed and picked up the phone to talk to Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy. Rahul refused to do so.Sonia Gandhi Rahul

He was of the view that the BJP must be allowed to form the government and when it fails to get a majority in the House, the Congress could come into the picture. But senior party leaders told him that the BJP may poach a few MLAs and cement its strength. But he did not agree.

The Congress president also held the view that by striking a deal with the JD(S) which came third in the race with just 38 seats and with no pan-Karnataka presence, the Congress will be seen as a weakling in politics ready to accept crumbs to come to power. This will hit the prospects of the party in 2019 when an anti-BJP coalition is likely to be formed. With the bad example from Karnataka, Rahul will be in no position to dictate terms, let alone trying to becoming the PM candidate.

The Congress president is also upset at the way the Lingayat card was played by Siddaramaiah. To make matters worse, a Lingayat (Yeddyurappa) has been denied the reins of power once more and the chair has been offered to the community’s rival — a Vokaliga. And the pictures of Siddaramaiah, who boasted that he would wipe out Deve Gowda and his son, haplessly trying to strike a deal with Kumarawamy has hurt the pride of the Congress in Karnataka and Delhi.

The veteran TDP founder, the late NT Rama Rao, had always called the Congress as a party with no `atma gouravam’ or self-pride. This has come true in Karnataka when Siddaramaiah was made to swallow his pride and meekly offered the crown to Kumaraswamy.

The Congress chief is also aware that the JD(S) cannot be trusted as Kumaraswamy had earlier betrayed Yeddyurappa with whom he had a written agreement to share power.

But more worrisome is that the BJP will upset the JD(S)-Cong combine as they are masters in `Operation Lotus’. When the 2008 polls in Karnataka threw up a fractured verdict, Yeddyurappa launched his infamous astra called Operation Lotus to buy over opposition party MLAs with money and power. At that time, BJP had poached 20 MLAs from JD(S) and Congress, making them resign their assembly membership and contest bypolls, between 2008 and 2013.

In today’s scenario, all that the BJP needs is the resignation of about 5-6 MLAs. Then the magic figure drops to 106-108. The resigned MLAs would then be offered the same seats on the BJP symbol for re-election.

Getting these MLAs would not be difficult as the Lingayats in the Congress are upset. The JD(S) too has a fair share of Congress-haters.

Prominent among the MLAs who defected to the BJP after the 2008 assembly elections include Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli, Anand Asnotikar (Karwar), J Narasimha Swamy (Doddaballapur) and actor-turned-politician Jaggesh (Turuvekere).

The BJP may not release its Operation Lotus astra now and invite criticism. A strategy being worked out is that the BJP might prod the Lingayat MLAs of the Congress and disgruntled JD(S) lawmakers to abstain during the trust vote if the governor allows them to form the government and prove their numbers. This strategy looks most likely now.

But that may not be a smooth ride as the Congress and JD(S) are expected to issue a whip to their members. If the MLAs defy the whip, they will be disqualified by the party. But if the party does not opt for such a move or the speaker does not take a decision on disqualification, it may create a constitutional crisis and the issue may end in court. This will provide the BJP enough time to work out new tactics.