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Game of one-upmanship unfolds in Karnataka Congress

Who is to be chief ministerial candidate among Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar is point of contention

Fissures within the Karnataka Congress seem to be widening over the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2023 Legislative Assembly elections as one faction favouring the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the other backing KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar continue to indulge in one-upmanship.

Despite the party high command’s diktat to leaders not to make statements on the party’s next chief ministerial face, on Wednesday, Pulakeshinagar MLA R. Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy and MLA for Harihar S. Ramappa joined the list of those projecting Leader of the Opposition Mr. Siddaramaiah as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

Mr. Murthy, who apparently did not get much support from Mr. Shivakumar in a case related to D.J. Halli and K.G. Halli violence last year, argued that Mr. Siddaramaiah’s work as Chief Minister had “benefited all sections of society” and he would be the party’s face in the next elections.

Zameer first

Siddaramaiah 

The whole controversy began with MLA B.Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan and later MLAs Raghavendra Hitnal (Koppal), J.N. Ganesh (Kampli), and Bhima Naik (Hagaribommanahalli) projecting Mr. Siddaramaiah as the party’s chief ministerial nominee.

Sensing that his authority was being questioned by loyalists of Mr. Siddaramaiah, Mr. Shivakumar rushed to Delhi and met the former party president and MP Rahul Gandhi and AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala. Mr. Surjewala then issued a statement forewarning leaders to avoid comments projecting the party’s next chief ministerial nominee.

“The central Congress leadership and MLAs will decide the issue at an appropriate time. All Congress leaders will fight the battle unitedly in people’s interest,” Mr. Surjewala said. Mr. Shivakumar has been consistently saying that the party would go to the polls under a collective leadership.

Sources in the party said the KPCC chief told Mr. Gandhi about “indiscipline in the party” and “mischief of projecting Mr. Siddaramaiah as the next Chief Minister” when the party is focusing on exposing the ruling BJP’s failures in the management of the pandemic.

Delhi visit

In the midst all these developments, Mr. Siddaramaiah has decided to meet central leaders of the party in July, sources said. Reacting to statements by MLAs, Mr. Siddaramaiah, who apparently was not in favour Mr. Shivakumar becoming the party’s chief last year, said, “What can I do if legislators mention my name for the Chief Minister’s post? They are personal views of the MLAs and there is no need to give much importance to such statements and it is not a matter for discussion.”

‘In no hurry’

Mr. Shivkumar on Wednesday said he was in no hurry to become the Chief Minister. “My goal is to defeat the BJP and bring the Congress to power,” he said.

Reacting to statements made by Congress MLAs on party’s chief ministerial candidate, Mr. Shivakumar, who returned to the city after meeting central leaders of the party in Delhi, said, “The race in our party is to defeat the BJP and bring the party to power. We have to devote more time to that first.”

On MLAs’ statements, he told reporters, “Let them give suggestions… Whatever I have to say, I have told the party high command. Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah will look into what the legislators are saying. If he does not, the party is there to look into it.”

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