With the fractured mandate compelling the Congress high command to forge an alliance with the JD(S), Siddaramaiah, the party's face in the Karnataka elections, seems to have been sidelined.
AICC general secretaries Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Ghelot, party MPs K C Venugopal and Ahmed Patel directly sorted out the power-sharing formula with the JD(S) without involving the state leadership.
Siddaramaiah had received flak from several senior party MLAs who held him responsible for the Congress' performance. They cited his complete authority in the selection of candidates and the Lingayat issue.
Former Speaker K B Koliwad minced no words while holding Siddaramaiah solely responsible for the poll debacle. During his tenure as chief minister, Siddaramaiah was at loggerheads with the Congress old guard and they had taunted him as an outsider.
Siddaramaiah’s rivalry with H D Deve Gowda and the JD(S) is well known and it has been the focal point of his politics since he quit the party.
During the campaign, Siddaramaiah launched personal attacks on the father-son duo. But the uncertain political situation in the state seems to have restored some of the old bonhomie between friends-turned-foes. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see Siddaramaiah playing a pivottal role either in the governmemnt or in the coordination committee.
Siddaramaiah had many detractors in the party. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had categorically declared that the party is “fighting the 2018 elections under his leadership” and it has become tough for the party to sideline its chief minister who gave a stable government in the state. Despite the poll debacle, the Congress reposed confidence in Siddaramaiah and elected him as the legislature party leader unanimously. His election must be seen as a categorical message from the party high command that they do not want any infighting or defection at this stage and are keen to ensure that the BJP remains out of power in the state.
Siddaramaiah's figure will loom large over this government though he will not be a part of it. He is a leader who overpowered machinations in a party that has often been accused of destroying a strong state leadership. It is highly likely that the Congress high command may field Siddaramaiah in the Lok Sabha election.
Also, the Congress may choose him to head the state unit as Parameshwara is the deputy chief minister in Kumaraswamy's Cabinet. Electing Siddaramaiah as the legislature party leader signifies the fact that the party is keen on him playing a crucial role on the floor of the House. What role Siddaramaiah will play largely depends on how the Congress-JD(S) alliance shapes up in the coming months.