The mood seemed to be in favour of Congress heavyweight Siddaramaiah at his 75th birthday bash, that saw a public display of camaraderie between him and the partys Karnataka unit chief D K Shivakumar, as Rahul Gandhi called for unity among partys rank and file to bring it back to power in the 2023 assembly polls.
Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, both chief minister aspirants, have been publicly engaged in a game of political one-upmanship for the post in the event of the Congress coming to power after the Assembly election.
Siddaramaiah also dismissed any rift with the state party chief.
The event was seen as a show of strength by Siddaramaiah and his camp to send a message to his detractors within and to the high command ahead of the assembly polls; however the party tried to assert that the election will be under collective leadership.
The party even tried to use the mega event, with some eight lakh people in attendance according to sources, to virtually sound the poll bugle, hoping that the event may draw a rich dividend to the party.
Every time Siddaramaiahs name was uttered by leaders who spoke and when the leader of opposition in the legislative assembly himself was about to address, the large crowd cheered him.
Though both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have on record maintained that the chief minister will be decided by the partys newly elected MLAs and the high command on gaining majority in the polls, their loyalists and supporters have been projecting their leaders, leading to an unease within the party.
At the event Shivakumar felicitated Siddaramaiah, a former chief minister, and hugged him in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, prompting the top leader to express joy over the public display of bonhomie between the states two top leaders.
“Today, I was happy to see Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar hugging each other on the stage,” Gandhi said addressing the event.
Stating that he doesnt normally go to birthday celebrations, Gandhi noted, “I have come here because I share a special relationship with Siddaramaiah. Of course I like Siddaramaiah-ji, I share his views as well. I share his compassion for the poor and weak. I also appreciate the way Siddaramaiah ran the last government in Karnataka. It gave a direction and vision for the people of Karnataka.” Siddaramaiah led the Congress-led government as chief minister during 2013-18.
Gandhi also had words of appreciation for Shivakumar, recalling his “tremendous work for the Congress organisation.” Thanking his supporters for the huge turnout and support, Siddaramaiah asserted that talks of rift between him and Shivakumar is an “illusion and creation” of opposition parties and the media.
“I and Shivakumar are together. There is no difference of opinion among us. Our only aim is to remove the corrupt and communal BJP government and bring the Congress back to power with blessings of the people,” he said.
Shivakumar, in his speech, said the Congress has decided to fight the assembly elections under collective leadership.
Asking partymen not to project Siddaramaiah as a leader of backward communities as he is the leader of all communities, Shivakumar said, “Let us all work together under his stewardship. The Congress has decided to contest the polls under collective leadership, lets all work together to bring the party back to power. Lets work to strengthen Sonia Gandhis hands and to make Rahul prime minister.” The event was organised despite reservations from a section of the old guard, which reportedly includes Shivakumar, who had earlier said that he was opposed to the “personality cult” in the party.
Gandhi, virtually sounding the poll bugle, said, “The Congress party is completely united to defeat the BJP and RSS in Karnataka.” When the party comes to power, it will give a “clean and honest” government which will work for the future of the state and it will not spread hatred, he said.
Referring to three murders with alleged communal overtones in the coastal region of the state in the last few days, he said such type of violence had not taken place in Karnataka in the past.
“When we ask people in the United States what they think of Karnataka today, they will say to you that Karnataka never witnessed the type of violence it is facing today,” he said, adding, “They will say to you that when the Congress was in power, Karnataka was in harmony.” Greeting Siddaramaiah on his birthday, Gandhi said: “He is one person who looks younger as he grows older.” During his Karnataka visit, Gandhi also met with workers of the Karnataka Khadi Gramodyog.
In a tweet later, he said, “It was a great pleasure to meet all the friends from Karnataka Khadi Gramodyog.” Hitting out at the RSS, he said history is witness that those running the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign have come out of an organisation which did not hoist the tricolour for 52 years.
“From the time of freedom struggle, they could not stop the Congress party and will not be able to stop it even today,” he said.
Gandhi also tweeted pictures of his meeting with the workers involved in making Khadi tricolours.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)