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Congress conundrum

Senior old timers have urged the party high command not to admit any “outsiders” especially during election time. They are objecting to the party’s position of admitting “winnable and capable” MLAs from other parties into their fold. Even federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M Veerappa Moily and former federal railway minister C K Jaffer Sharief expressed their concerns to the party high command in New Delhi about the entry of what they described as “opportunists” who had earlier left the party for ripe pickings.

Politicking is picking up pace in Karnataka as the date for the all-important elections to the state legislative assembly approaches. Although on the face of it, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems set to be the biggest loser with Ministers and MLAs deserting the sinking ship, the party which seeks to gain the biggest advantage is itself in a total mess.

But within the Congress it is the absence of a clear-cut leadership that is biting the party so cruelly. Not only that, old foggies are now coming out of the woodwork to claim their chance at providing a “good leadership”.

So far, the Congress party high command seems not to be bothered. (Neither has the BJP’s central leadership shown any inclination to set things right in Karnataka).

But in Karnataka, as mentioned, the BJP’s loss is the Congress party’s gain. Those quitting the BJP now are making a beeline to the main opposition party in the state, instead of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) as was expected. The KJP did get a few, but that seems all a thing of the past. Even those who joined Yedyurappa are his own die-hard loyalists. A couple of defectors might also cross over to the other opposition party, the Janata Dal (Secular) headed by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.

The reason for this is that surveys have shown that the Congress party is set to return to power in the state, which was once described as the BJP’s gateway to the south. The surveys have given the Congress party a comfortable lead over the BJP, but the KJP, like Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party may not play a spoiler, though it might bag a couple of seats. The JD(S) is shown as coming in a distant third (read here).

Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri: Siddaramaiah, Moily, Krishna, Sharief, Parameshwara

Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri: Siddaramaiah, Moily, Krishna, Sharief, Parameshwara

But with the trickle of new entrants, notably ministers C P Yogeshwar and Narasimha Nayak alias Raju Gowda, threatening to turn into a flood, there is great unease in the Congress party.

Senior old timers (read: loyalists) like former KPCC chief R V Deshpande have urged the party high command not to admit any “outsiders” especially during election time. They are objecting to the party’s position of admitting “winnable and capable” MLAs from other parties into their fold.

Even federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M Veerappa Moily and former federal railway minister C K Jaffer Sharief expressed their concerns to the party high command in New Delhi about the entry of what they described as “opportunists” who had earlier left the party for ripe pickings.

Moily and Sharief have even written to party president Sonia Gandhi urging her not to admit the defectors.

But both Yogheswar and Raju Gowda are now busy distributing Congress party tickets to their supporters for the local body elections to be held on March 7. These elections are being seen as a semi-final before the big one in May this year.

But the main problem lies within the Congress party itself. The issue of state leadership is not settled one way or the other as yet. Even though G Parameshwara as the KPCC chief is doing a commendable job give the circumstances, he is considered a light-weight and mostly ignored.

There are more contenders for chief ministership, now that the party might return to power, but leading the pack is Siddaramaiah, the leader of the opposition in the Karnataka assembly, who himself once defected from the JD(S) because Deve Gowda gave preference to his son Kumaraswamy over the party loyalist. Siddaramaiah has made his intentions clearly known, but faces opposition from “loyalists”. Federal minister Moily himself is one of the contenders.

So far the Congress party high command, true to its style of working, has not indicated its choice for the chief ministership, but added to the confusion by returning former chief minister S M Krishna back to the state, relieving him of his duties as federal external affairs minister.

Despite a rosy picture being painted, the Congress party’s dilemma over both issues – of leadership and admitting defectors from other parties – remain unresolved and is bound to cause unease among loyal party workers and as a result have negative effect on the results.

The Congress party, as well as other parties, will know where they stand once the results for the May 7 urban local bodies polls are out (read here).

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