The principal Opposition Congress, which appealed to Janata Dal (Secular) legislators to cast their “conscience” vote in favour of the party’s second candidate, Mansoor Ali Khan, suffered an embarrassment by enabling the victory of the ruling BJP’s Lahar Singh Siroya in the the Rajya Sabha elections on Friday.
The Congress, however, seems to have utilised the Rajya Sabha polls as a means to maintain a clear distance from the JD(S) ahead of the next year’s Legislative Assembly elections. Leaders of the Congress and the JD(S), who were involved in backdoor talks initially, appeared unable to strike an alliance largely owing to a clash of ego between former Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah (Congress) and H.D. Kumaraswamy (JD-S). In the run-up to the elections, both the leaders had indulged in verbal confrontation.
However, in a bid to form an alliance, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha M. Mallikarjun Kharge, apparently, rushed to Delhi by skipping the first day of the party’s Chintana Shibira in Bengaluru to convince the Congress high command about the necessity of forming an alliance to defeat the BJP in the contest for the fourth seat.
Mr. Siddaramaiah, who is also the Congress Legislature Party leader, knowing well the shortage of required numbers for the victory, reportedly opposed the high command’s suggestion on alliance, and ensured his sway in fielding the second candidate.
The party nominated the former Union Minister Jairam Rameh as its first candidate. Mansoor Ali Khan, son of the former Union Minister K. Rahman Khan, was fielded with an aim to boost the party’s pro-Muslim image and demonstrate its resolve to protect the community against the BJP’s “communal agenda”.
Finally, the Congress’ expectation of cross-voting by a good number of disgruntled BJP and JD(S) MLAs did not work, as only one JD(S) MLA, Srinivas Gowda, indulged in cross-voting in the party’s favour. Independent MLA Sharath Bache Gowda also voted for the party.
But the defeat of Mr. Khan may not go down well with the Muslim community. About a decade ago, in the Legislative Council elections, Iqbal Ansari Saradagi of Kalaburagi (Congress) and loyalist of Mr. Kharge had lost to Byrathi Suresh, Independent, owing to cross-voting. Muslim leaders had then submitted a petition to the then KPCC chief G. Parameshwara seeking an explanation for the defeat.
Not lost entirely
Mr. Siddaramaiah, who has always been calling JD(S) the “B team” of the BJP, has turned down ties with the party in an attempt to consolidate the Congress’ votes largely in the Old Mysore belt. By ensuring that one MLA belonging to the Vokkaliga community stays away from the JD(S), the Congress seems to have not lost entirely. Many in the party believe that it has conveyed the message that all is not well in the JD(S) leadership and the regional party was also responsible for the victory of Mr. Siroya.