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Disunity rocks Karnataka Congress amid talks of early polls

Monday June 04, 2012 09:30:05 AM, V.S. Karnic, IANS

Bangalore: 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 legislative council.

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 the party.

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 hesitation.

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 win.

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 council.

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







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