Rahul Gandhi met the two in Delhi on Tuesday
BENGALURU: Rahul Gandhi’s instruction to Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar to fight the 2023 assembly elections under collective leadership may ease faction tussles in Karnataka Congress to only a certain extent, believe party functionaries.
At the core, the two remain divided over the question of who should be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
“Rahul’s directive may stop the camps loyal to Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar from airing their opinions publicly, but internally, the wrangling will go on. For Siddaramaiah, this may be the last chance to return as the chief minister. At the same time, for Shivakumar, it is the best opportunity to be elected to the post. So, they will continue to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal,” said a senior Congress member and former minister.
Rahul summoned Siddaramaiah, the opposition leader in the assembly, and Shivakumar, the state Congress president, to Delhi on Tuesday and asked them to bury differences and focus on strengthening the party. “The party high command and legislators will take the call on the chief ministerial candidate after the elections,” Rahul told them.
After 1999, this is the first time that Karnataka Congress is facing such a problem. Though the party has a tradition of not announcing its CM candidate before the polls, it was widely known in 1999 that SM Krishna would get the top job. As the head of the state unit, he had successfully led the Panchajanya Yatra to galvanise the party cadre ahead of the vote.
In 2013, too, there were hardly any doubts about Siddaramaiah becoming the chief minister. He got the high command to persuade senior member Mallikarjun Kharge to make way, and the defeat of the then state Congress president G Parameshwara further eased his path. Siddaramaiah’s padayatra from Bengaluru to Ballari against mining barons Reddy brothers before the elections also pushed him way ahead of other Congress members on the popularity graph.
This time, the situation is different. Siddaramaiah faces a strong contender in Shivakumar, who cannot be sidelined. The fact that Shivakumar belongs to the influential Vokkaliga community and has the resources to aim for the CM’s post also makes Siddaramaiah’s task difficult. Plus, Shivakumar enjoys the confidence of the Gandhi family after being identified as one of the party’s main crisis managers.
“Recently, several MLAs started batting for Siddaramaiah as the party face. The speed with which Shivakumar got orders from Delhi for state leaders not to air their views on the topic shows his clout,” said a legislator in Shivakumar’s camp.
But the faction loyal to Siddaramaiah believes that he is far ahead in popularity and acceptance among masses. “People still remember the good governance he provided. There is also sympathy among people towards him over the 2018 outcome,” said a former MLA.