The Congress in Karnataka seems to be going the way of the state's
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with rifts in the party amid
mounting speculation over assembly polls being held yearend, five
months ahead of schedule.
Simmering differences in the state Congress burst open Friday.
Siddaramaiah, leader of the opposition in the assembly as well as
leader of the Congress Legislature Party, quit both the posts as
he was upset with the party high command ignoring him in the
selection of candidates to contest the June 11 elections to the
Siddaramaiah had joined the Congress from the Janata Dal-Secular
in 2006. Relations between him and "original" Congressmen have
been uneasy ever since with frequent talk that he and his
followers may go their own way soon.
Siddaramaiah, a prominent backward classes leader in the state,
and Karnataka Congress chief G. Parameshwara are also believed to
be pulling in different directions though both keep repeating
there are no differences between them.
However, it was clear that all was not well in the state unit of
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was here April 28 to win over
the politically influential Lingayat community, which is said to
be largely backing the BJP, had pointedly stressed on the need for
state leaders to work together as elections were only a year away.
But her exhortation too has met the fate of appeals of the BJP
"high command" to their Karnataka leaders - ignored without any
Siddaramaiah is upset that his loyalist C.M. Ibrahim, who was the
controversial civil aviation minister during H.D. Deve Gowda's
short-lived prime ministership in 1996-97, has not been fielded
for the legislative council polls.
The June 11 elections are to fill 11 vacancies in the 75-member
council. The 11 are to be elected by members of the legislative
assembly. The Congress has 71 members in the 225-member assembly
and can bag three seats conveniently as each needs 19 votes to
His resignation, even if he is persuaded to withdraw, only proves
the difficult task the Congress high command has in taking on
equally divided BJP in the assembly elections that could be held
in December this year along with polls in Gujarat.
The development was also embarrassing for the Congress high
command as it came a day ahead of party general secretary Rahul
Gandhi's visit to the state to address a Youth Congress meet in
Dharwad in north Karnataka.
For the Congress, problems are coming into the open when the BJP
has managed to distribute the six council seats it can win among
the various factions within its state unit. The BJP has 120
members in the assembly and can get six people elected to the
Former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who has been campaigning
to unseat his successor D.V. Sadananada Gowda, has got nominations
for two of his men. "We are all united and small differences have
been sorted out," he claimed.
He also gave the first clear indication that his party is
preparing for year-end polls. "Get ready for polls which will be
held in six months," he said at a meeting of the BJP Slum Morcha
(wing) in Bangalore.
With both major political players in the state battling internal
problems - the BJP is also battered by various scandals -- it will
not be a surprise if the leaderships of the two parties decide
that early polls are better than allowing the controversies to
further eat into their victory prospects.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)