Rifts within the Congress-Janata Dal Secular alliance in Karnataka, already on edge after losing a trust vote last month that handed the state to the BJP, are widening after a war of words between Congress leader Siddaramaiah and JDS veteran HD Deve Gowda. Mr Siddaramaiah today hit back at comments by the former Prime Minister in which he had blamed him and the Congress for causing the coalition's collapse, calling them "baseless" and "politically motivated".
"Deve Gowda has made some allegations against me. They are all baseless, politically motivated and false. Gowda never allowed someone else to grow. They JDS do not even let people from their own caste grow. I have friends in all castes and in all parties," Mr Siddaramaiah, 71, said today.
"I was also in JDS with them, I know all their conspiracies," he added, insisting that the coalition had really been weakened by the government not taking MLAs and ministers into their confidence.
Mr Siddaramiah had been expelled from the JDS in 2004 for "anti-party activities".
On Thursday, following up on comments made the day before, Mr Deve Gowda, 86, said the Congress had been "wrong" in making his son, HD Kumaraswamy, Chief Minister without consulting Mr Siddaramaiah.
"I have clearly said that without taking Siddaramaiah, who was Chief Minister for five years, into confidence Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi all of a sudden came and said HD Kumaraswamy is the next Chief Minister, it was their wrong decision," the former Prime Minister said.
Mr Siddarmaiah came under criticism after the collapse because some of the MLAs who resigned were believed to be close to him. However, he dismissed the allegations.
"I did not want BJP to come to power, so when Congress leaders from Delhi said the high command has decided that despite having 80 MLAs we should support the JDS with 37 MLAs. I accepted it without opposing it," he explained today.
The Congress-JDS alliance took power in May last year; the two parties cobbled together a deal to keep the BJP out after the party won 104 seats but fell short of an absolute majority. As part of the coalition agreement, the Congress had conceded the Chief Minister's chair to the Janata Dal Secular.
The fragile coalition collapsed last month, after sixteen MLAs (13 of whom were from the Congress) resigned amid high drama that included a stand-off between Congress strongman DK Shivakumar and the disgruntled leaders outside a Mumbai hotel.
After the vote, Mr Deve Gowda said the coalition's future depended on the Congress, also making it clear that Mr Siddaramaiah and not Mr Kumaraswamay would be Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Siddaramaiah also responded to allegations that he was to blame for election defeats suffered by Mr Deve Gowda and his grandson.
"We (me and HD Deve Gowda) had campaigned in many constituencies. If he blames me for his and his grandson's debacle in election, he should tell me why our candidates lost," he said.
Mr Deve Gowda contested from the Tumkur seat but lost by nearly six lakh votes. His grandson, Nikhil Kumaraswamy, lost from Mandya by 5.7 lakh votes
With input from ANI, PTI
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