Millennium Post

No Krishna consciousness in Karnataka?

S M Krishna quit as external affairs minister ostensibly because the Congress wants the services of its tallest leader in Karnataka to recapture power in the state in the assembly polls, due early next year.

A grand plan, no doubt.

The catch, however, is that there are few takers for this spin, even within the Congress unit in Karnataka, which is riven by groupism and differences of caste.

If Krishna, who has been replaced by Salman Khurshid as India’s foreign minister, returns to active state politics, it will be the second time in just over four years that he has moved from centre to state.

After being chief minister for five years from 1999, the party was defeated in the 2004 polls; in December that year, he was made Maharashtra governor.

In March 2008 he quit as governor to return to state politics, and actively campaigned for the Congress in the assembly polls of May that year. The Congress did not gain much, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power for the first time in the state.

There was much hype, though, in 2008 when Krishna re-entered Karnataka politics as he was leaving mostly an honorary post of governor, usually reserved for either ageing leaders or trouble-makers for the ruling party at New Delhi.

This time, however, if he returns to Karnataka, he will be returning after losing one of the most important portfolios in the union government.

Krishna is no doubt the tallest Congress leader in the state, and he has a reputation for bringing all sections of the party together. But the party is bitterly divided on caste lines with a powerful group of Lingayat community leaders openly campaigning to remove the present Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief G Parameshwara.

Unlike in 2008, Krishna is now dogged by allegations of serious lapses in granting iron ore mining leases.

More trouble was in store for him and the Congress.

Just a day before he quit the ministry, the Lokayukta (ombudsman) court in Bangalore ordered a probe into his role in the alleged grant of excess land to the 111 km Bangalore-Mysore highway corridor with five township and several commercial projects; the grant was made at a time when Krishna was chief minister.

Given this backdrop, the age factor and the lukewarm response he would get from some sections in the state Congress, Krishna can at best play a minimal role, despite the grand things his party might say.

Though the BJP faces a possible split ahead of the polls, as its former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa plans to launch a new party in December, the Congress in the state and at the national level are in no shape to take advantage of the situation.

A distinct possibility staring the state in the face is of a split verdict and a messy coalition, continuing the political instability witnessed since 2004.
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