Factionalism in Karnataka Congress comes to the fore over choice of state leader

Karnataka, Congress, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, KPCC, president, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Congress Legislative Party, CLP, leader, K Siddaramaiah, BS Yediyurappa, HD Kumaraswamy, HD Deve Gowda
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao (left) and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader K Siddaramaiah (right). File photo: PTI

The Karnataka Congress is divided over who should lead the party in the aftermath of the debacle suffered by it in the recently held bypolls.

While there are some who feel that the resignations of both Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao need to be rejected, there are also some who believe that there should be a change of guard.

It is to be noted that hours after the poll debacle in the state on Tuesday, Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao stepped down as Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader and KPCC president respectively.

Opinion remains sharply divided over the continuation of Siddaramaiah, particularly, in the backdrop of the successive defeats suffered by the party, under his leadership, namely the 2018 assembly polls, 2019 Lok Sabha election and the recently held bypolls.

Also read: BJP sweeps Karnataka bypolls; top Congress leaders quit

It is a known fact that seniors in the party like K H Muniyappa, G Parameshwara, H K Patil and Kharge have always been uncomfortable with the importance given to Siddaramaiah, who defected from the JD(S) to join the Congress.

But there are also leaders like Motamma and Allam Prabhu Patil who believe that there is no alternative to Siddaramaiah. Therefore, they have conveyed to the party president Sonia Gandhi to reject the resignations of the both Siddaramaiah and Rao.

“Yes, we lost badly and there was no coordination. But that doesn’t mean Siddaramaiah and Rao did something wrong. On moral grounds, they have resigned but they did well in difficult times. So, we want them to continue and have conveyed the same to party high command,” Motamma said.

While Motamma agreed that there was lack of coordination, she also alleged that her party could not challenge the BJP as it resorted to unethical means to win the elections. “It’s time for the party seniors to come together and work for the betterment of the party,” Motamma added.  Expressing confidence that the Congress would stage a comeback, she cited the example of the 1994 election in which the party won just 34 seats but bounced back in 1999 to win 132 seats.

Also read: Karnataka bypolls results a do-or-die for BJP in South India

On the question of retaining Siddaramaiah as the head of the CLP, she said that he fought hard to defeat the BJP at Hunsur where former JD(S) president A H Vishwanath contested on a BJP ticket but lost to the Congress by a margin of 40,000 votes.

Also, the internal divisions and the lack of clarity over the party alliance with the JD(S) cost the party dearly. And Siddaramaiah is blamed for the widening of differences between the two parties, she said.

Though the party is yet to finalise a strategy on reviving itself, Congress leader Allam Prabhu Patil said, the party would now focus on highlighting the failure of the BJP government on various welfare schemes and reach out to the people.

“Our leaders will hold padayatras in the flood affected areas in the coming days and prepare for the next election,” Patil said.  Patil also noted that Rao, who had administrative experience, gave up his ministerial berth to strengthen the party at the grassroots level. Hence he too should continue.

Meanwhile, another leader, a former MLA who did not wish to be named, is of the opinion that Siddaramaiah was partial towards his own Kuruba community and favoured his loyalists which led to factionalism within the party. Besides, his vindictive politics helped defeat some of the JD(S) leaders and Congress rebels, which ultimately acted against the party’s interest. The MLA is of the view that a core-Congressman like Kharge or Paremeshwara should lead the party to win the next elections.

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