The former external affairs minister S M Krishna is in retirement mode and is not cut out for the heat and dust of state politics. He even lacks the clout that he enjoyed in the Congress when he was chief minister, reports Vicky Nanjappa
The Indian National Congress in Karnataka needs a leader, and with former external affairs minister S M Krishna back, the question is whether he will be handed over the charge to raise 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-Secular leader, now in the Congress, is still viewed as an outsider despite being the third best crowd puller in Karnataka after B S Yeddyurappa and H D Kumaraswamy (former chief ministers of the state).
The elections are a couple of months away and with the Bharatiya Janata Party is still divided. Though this is the best chance for the Congress to regain lost ground in Karnataka, their leaders are a demoralised; they are unaware of who will 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 idea as to who would lead.
So, 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, is a firm no.
The 80-year-old leader himself is not interested. He could cite his age as a factor, but more significantly Krishna has lost connect with the state.
Moreover, he is in retirement mode and is not cut out for the heat and dust of state politics. He even lacks the clout that he enjoyed in the Congress when he was chief minister.
For Krishna the biggest positive was the Mandya, Mysore and the urban belts. These areas have a bigger Vokkaliga population that Krishna belongs to. However, today he cannot claim that support since he has been away from these belts and no one identifies with him. In the urban areas of Bengaluru and Mysore he may make a very small impact since he has always been known to be a chief minister of Bangalore than of 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 did not win many hearts in his home constituency of Maddur (near Mandya) during the Cauvery crisis. He did not contest the last elections that he fought from his home constituency and preferred to battle it from Chamrajpet in Bengaluru. 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 JD-S.
The Congress is however not looking to offer him a big posting in Karnataka as they realise that it may not work wonders and could also shake the balance in the party. The party may at the most offer him the 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 like 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 party's only hope. If Krishna wishes he could get them to unite. But 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 could be from the Mallikarjuna Kharge faction, who is seen as a dalit leader in the party. Krishna and Kharge, who was home minister in the Krishna government, don't see eye to eye. After Krishna completed his stint as the governor of Maharashtra, it was Kharge, with the help of Prithviraj Chavan (chief minister of Maharashtra), who thwarted Krishna's return to Karnataka.
The Congress could, however, use Krishna to play a more active role in the urban areas. The Bengaluru urban area comprises of 28 seats out of which 17 are held by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Krishna could make a bit of difference in this segment since he is liked in the urban areas and is considered to be suave and charismatic.
The Congress is desperately trying to capitalise on the Lingayat vote bank after the split between B S Yeddyurappa and the BJP. The Congress hopes to 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 it has lost that vote bank to the JD-S.
The other worry 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 it due to a very famous rivalry.