New Delhi/Bengaluru: With the Congress trying to take advantage of the crisis in the Karnataka unit of the BJP over Chief Minister BS Yedyurappa’s future, the grand old party successfully put a temporary political quick fix solution to the growing chasm between former CM Siddaramaiah and State Congress chief DK Shivakumar.
Supporters of the two leaders have been sparring over projecting the next CM face though the next Assembly elections are only in 2023.
After meeting Rahul Gandhi, who deftly played his persuasive card well, the two leaders have been asked to work together and neither of them will be projected as a Chief Ministerial candidate.
Sources in the party in Bengaluru however said that apart from the two leaders there are not many capable of climbing on to the CM’s chair should the party win.
Addressing a press meet in Delhi on Wednesday, Randeep Singh Surjewala, the party's Karnataka in-charge, said both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have agreed to work together.
The Congress mission in Karnataka for 2023 is 150-plus seats in the Assembly. In the next few weeks, a much overdue reconstitution of the state Congress is expected to take place.
But the Congress believes that the BJP government will fall soon if Yeddiyurappa is replaced as CM. There could be turmoil in the BJP if Yeddiyurappa is shown the door. “He may not leave easily. We expect some trouble. Let’s see. We are keeping a close watch,” a senior AICC leader was quoted in the media hinting at the possibility of a mid-term election in the state.
At the press meet in Delhi, Siddharamaiah denied any rift in the party.
“Who is going to lead the party?….they are all sitting on this stage. You have Siddaramaiah, Mallikarjun Kharge and D K Shivakumar…and of course we have our young working president Dhruv Narayan…” he said.
Meanwhile, with Yediyurappa’s exit on the cards, the Congress is hoping that sections of the Lingayat community he represents will move away from BJP in anger. Any shift in how Lingayats, BJP’s major support base, vote could significantly influence the next assembly elections, leading to possible gains for Congress.
But for this to happen, a lot will depend on how BJP handles Yediyurappa’s exit, if there is one, and whom it brings in as the new chief minister. Another Lingayat face may help it avoid or minimise loss of support.
Congress members are counting on multiple factors to work and help them woo the community. A huge section of the community once backed Congress, thanks to the efforts of former chief minister Veerendra Patil. But they moved closer to BJP after Veerendra Patil was unceremoniously removed from the CM chair in 1990 by the then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi.
Lingayats account for 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population and form a big voter group in 95 out of the total 224 assembly constituencies. Whoever wins more than half of the 95 seats is assured of a majority in the Assembly. This was the case with BJP in the 2008 and 2018 assembly elections.