Defeat of the ruling Congress in the crucial BBMP election appears to have rendered Chief Minister Siddaramaiah vulnerable to attacks from his adversaries within the party.
Siddaramaiah, who had taken the elections as a prestige issue and led the party campaign, wore a grim look as the results were being announced on Tuesday.
Though he meekly owned responsibility for the defeat in the State capital, he rejected claims that it was a referendum on his two-year-three-month-old government. However, the party put up a show of unity at the chief minister’s home office soon after the results.
Siddaramaiah may not be able to either expand his council of ministers or reshuffle the portfolios in the coming days because of his vulnerability. Any such move would result in groupism and rebellion among the legislators.
He, at the same time, will have a tough time handling a section of senior legislators who are demanding ministerial berths. Stakes were high for the chief minister in this elections.
The party high command entrusted him with the responsibility of leading in the polls, reposing confidence in his leadership. In fact, the party had given him a free hand from day one of becoming the chief minister. This was one of the reasons his detractors had not dared to do anything that would destabilise his government.
The Congress actually badly needed a victory in the BBMP polls after its humiliating defeat in last year's parliamentary polls. The party was confident of a victory, going by the tradition of the ruling party notching an easy win in local body elections. But the party's poor performance, despite being in power, has not only come as a disappointment but shocked the leadership.
Sources in the Congress said things may not be the same for Siddaramaiah post BBMP poll outcome. The tussle between so called migrants and loyalists would also intensify. His adversaries within the party are likely to make use of the vulnerable situation to damage his reputation in coming days.
The sources said the Chief Minister's detractors will now try to project that all is not well in the State party and that Siddaramaiah has not been able to take everybody into confidence. Statements made by former external affairs minister S M Krishna and AICC general secretary B K Hariprasad a day before polling, accusing Siddaramaiah of being casteist and indulging in one-upmanship, will only come in handy for them to built a case against him, the sources added. Of the 198 party candidates, 23 belonged to the Kuruba community.
Siddaramaiah, who had the final say in issuing tickets to contest, belongs to Kuruba community. Many leaders in the party were upset with him for fielding candidates belonging to SC and ST communities in some general category wards. These two factors are being cited as some of the reasons for the party facing rebellion in over a dozen wards.
This apart, the Siddaramaiah government is being blamed for mishandling the plan to re-structure the Bengaluru municipal area. The government not only dissolved the BBMP council headed by the BJP abruptly before the end of its term but failed to pass a bill to re-structure the Bengaluru municipal area. AICC spokesperson and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao admitted that the government erred in handling the re-structuring plan.