The Indian National Congress in Karnataka needs a face and with S M Krishna back, the question is whether he will be handed over the mantle of raising the hopes of the party?
There is no doubt that the Congress which once ruled Karnataka is in disarray today. There is no face, no unity and no inspiration. Siddaramaiah, the former Janata Dal (s) leader now in the Congress is still being viewed as an outsider despite being the third best crowd puller in Karnataka after B S Yeddyurappa and H D Kumaraswamy.
The elections are a couple of months away and with the BJP in split mode, it was the best chance for the Congress to regain lost ground in Karnataka. Congress leaders in the state are a demoralised lot since they are unaware as to who would lead them in the elections. Although the Congress has always kept its Chief Ministerial candidate a secret till the very end, their workers at least had a fair picture as to who would lead them during the elections.
Is S M Krishna, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka the answer to the problems in the Congress? The answer according to many political observers would be a firm no. For starters the 80 year old leader himself is not interested. He would quote his age as a factor, but then the fact is that he has lost connect with the state. Moreover he is in retirement mode at the moment and is not cut out for the heat and dust politics. The clout which he enjoyed in the Congress when he was the Chief Minister too is not there at the moment.
For Krishna the biggest positive were the Mandya, Mysore and the Urban belts. These areas have a bigger Vokkaliga population which Krishna belongs to. However today he cannot claim that support since he has been away from these belts and no one identifies with him over there. In the Urban areas of Bangalore and Mysore he may make a very small impact since he has always been known to be a Chief Minister of Bangalore than Karnataka.
Krishna could have made a small difference in the Mandya and Mysore belts during the Cauvery waters issue. He however was non committal on the issue and it was the JD(S) which walked away with the laurels as they were very vocal during the agitation. Even when Krishna was the Chief Minister, he had not managed to win the hearts even in his home constituency of Maddur (near Mandya) during the Cauvery crisis. He did not even contest the last elections that he fought from his home constituency and preferred to battle it from Chamrajpet in Bangalore. During the previous elections in 2008, he fielded his nephew, Gurucharan from the Maddur constituency, but that did not pay off as he lost to the Janata Dal (S).
The Congress is however not looking to offer him a big posting in Karnataka as they do realise that it may not work wonders and it could also shake the balance in the party. The party may at the most offer him a post of Chairman of the campaign committee.
So what can Krishna offer? At the most he may bring in a semblance of unity because of his age and seniority. He has loyalists such as Dr Parameshwar and D K Shivakumar in the party. These are persons who are constantly at war with the likes of Siddaramaya who many feel is the Congress’ only hope. If Krishna wishes he could get them to unite. However if that fails it is further trouble as the Congress will end up having yet another group within it.
The other problem for the Congress if Krishna comes into the picture would be from the Mallikarjuna Kharge faction who is seen as a dalit leader in the party. Kharge who was the Home Minister in the Krishna government cannot see eye to eye with him. Moreover after Krishna completed his stint as the governor of Maharashtra, it was Kharge with the help of Prithviraj Chauvan who thwarted Krishna’s return to Karnataka.
The Congress could however use Krishna to play a more active role in the urban areas. The Bangalore urban area comprises 28 seats out of which 17 are held by the BJP at the moment. Krishna could make a bit of difference in this segment since he is liked in the urban areas as he is considered to be suave and charismatic.
The other issue that the Congress would create if Krishna is brought into the picture is regarding the Lingayat vote bank. The Congress is desperately trying to capitalise on the Lingayat vote bank after there was a split in the BJP between B S Yeddyurappa. The Congress is trying to capitalise on this split and hopes it could take away a couple of Lingayat votes away from the BJP. However if Krishna is placed at the helm of affairs it may drive away the Lingayat votes as Krishna belongs to the Vokkaliga community. The Congress would have taken that risk if Krishna continued to be a hero among the Vokkaligas, but then the Congress has lost that vote bank to the JD(S).
The other worry on hand if Krishna is given a more prominent role is a possible relationship with the Janata Dal (S). If the Congress needs to depend on the JD(S) to form the next government then Krishna’s presence will not help as the supermo of the JD(S), H D Deve Gowda would never agree to the same due to a very famous rivalry.